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Call Centers in India extorted $300 million from 15,000 US Citizens by Posing as  an I.R.S. Officers

Los Angeles, Oct 27, 2016/

  • Department of Justice: Today, Indictment was unsealed charging a total of 61 individuals and entities for their alleged involvement in a transnational criminal organization
    • 20 individuals were arrested today in US
    • 32 individuals and five call centers in India were charged for their alleged involvement.  

The call centers outside Mumbai would send mass text messages announcing an urgent inquiry to as many as 10,000 American cellphone numbers by telling them to call back because they owed back taxes.

In nine  Call Centers, the hundreds of people had an unusual assignment: posing as Internal Revenue Service officers and demanding money from American taxpayers as unpaid taxes

When US citizens called back, threats were given  by fake IRS Officers and some US citizens believed the threats would fork out thousands of dollars to “settle” their case.

Cracks down on India-based multi-mn dollar scam targeting Americans

New York, Oct 28, 2016: US authorities have arrested 20 people and charged 32 others in an India-based scam that allegedly extorted hundreds of millions of dollars from Americans and brought shame to India and Indians with persistent, threatening calls to millions of persons here.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell announced the crackdown Thursday, declaring: "The arrests we made today demonstrate the Justice Department's commitment to identifying and prosecuting the individuals behind these impersonation and tele fraud schemes, who seek to profit by exploiting some of the most vulnerable members of our communities."

She said that the US would ask New Delhi to extradite those in India who were charged.

Five Indian call centres were also charged in connection with the alleged scam.

Several federal, state and local law enforcement agencies carried out the arrests across Alabama, Illinois, California, New Jersey, Florida, and Texas.

According to media reports, $300 million was allegedly extorted from about 15,000 people.

Officials did not name the people arrested.

Authorities said in a chargesheet filed in a Texas federal court that "the sophisticated fraudulent scheme organised by conspirators in India, including a network of call centres in Ahmedabad" phoned individuals in America and pretending to be tax officials told them that they would be arrested if they did not immediately pay what they claimed were tax arrears or penalties.

Those who fell for the scam were asked to buy prepaid credit cards or gift vouchers and hand them over to their associates in the US.

The US-based associates then transferred the money to India through hawala, according to the chargesheet.

A New York-based IANS correspondent has received these threatening calls almost every week from people with heavy Indian accents or a flimsy attempt to imitate an American accent.

India was risking increasingly becoming identified in popular perception with call centre fraud.

These calls to millions of Americans have been documented on websites tracking fraudulent calls and made people question the integrity of India-based back office and call centre operations, threatening the future of the multi-billion dollar Indian industry.

Officials gave two examples of vulnerable people who fell victims to the scam.

  • "One of the call centres extorted $12,300 from an 85-year-old victim from San Diego, California, after threatening her with arrest if she did not pay fictitious tax violations," they said in the chargesheet.
  • In another case, the chargesheet said they "extorted $136,000 from a victim in Hayward, California, who they called multiple times over a period of 20 days, fraudulently purporting to be IRS agents and demanding payment for alleged tax violations".
  • Another scam the alleged criminals operated was offering people small loans or grants and asking them to make an upfront payment. The money was pocketed and the victims did not receive the promised loans or grants, officials said.

    The latest action in the US was not related to arrests of about 70 people by Indian authorities earlier this month for alleged involvement in similar tax-related scams targeting Americans.

    That action involved three call centers in the Mumbai area and several hundred people working there were detained for investigation.

    In May, US authorities arrested five people in Florida who allegedly extorted about $2 million from over 1,500 people in a similar scam……IANS


US Justice Department charging a total of 61 individuals and entities

Dozens of Individuals Indicted in Multimillion-Dollar Indian Call Center Scam Targeting U.S. Victims
Department of Justice/Office of Public Affairs
Thursday, October 27, 2016

Today, an indictment was unsealed charging a total of 61 individuals and entities for their alleged involvement in a transnational criminal organization that has victimized tens of thousands of persons in the United States through fraudulent schemes that have resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.  In connection with the scheme, 20 individuals were arrested today in the United States and 32 individuals and five call centers in India were charged for their alleged involvement.  An additional U.S.-based defendant is currently in the custody of immigration authorities.  

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas, Executive Associate Director Peter T. Edge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Inspector General J. Russell George of the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) and Inspector General John Roth of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG) made the announcement today.

“The indictment we unsealed and the arrests we made today demonstrate the Justice Department’s commitment to identifying and prosecuting the individuals behind these impersonation and tele fraud schemes, who seek to profit by exploiting some of the most vulnerable members of our communities,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell.  “This is a transnational problem, and demonstrates that modern criminals target Americans both from inside our borders and from abroad.  Only by working tirelessly to gather evidence, build cases and working closely with foreign law enforcement partners to ensure there are no safe havens can we effectively address these threats.” 

“This indictment will serve to not only seek the conviction of those involved, but will send a message around the world that no one is safe from prosecution for participating in such pervasive transnational fraud schemes,” said U.S. Attorney Magidson.  “We are extremely vigilant when the names of U.S. government agencies are used to perpetuate fraud for the purpose of victimizing so many innocent American citizens.” 

“Today’s actions will not only bring a sense of justice to the victims in this case, but this significant investigation will also help increase awareness of this type of fraud,” said Executive Associate Director Edge.  “To potential victims, our message today is simple: U.S. government agencies do not make these types of calls, and if you receive one, contact law enforcement to report the suspected scam before you make a payment.” 

“All agencies involved in today’s announcement are to be congratulated and commended on their outstanding efforts,” said Inspector General George.  “This indictment is the result of countless hours of solid investigative work and excellent cross-governmental collaboration concerning massive amounts of fraud that individuals have allegedly perpetrated on the American people.” 

“This multi-agency, three year investigation illustrates the ability of federal, state and local agencies to successfully leverage resources, communicate and work together to achieve justice,” said Inspector General Roth.  “We commend the victims for overcoming any possible embarrassment or fear and coming forward and report this to the authorities.” 

The indictment was returned by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas on Oct. 19, 2016, and charges the defendants with conspiracy to commit identity theft, false personation of an officer of the United States, wire fraud and money laundering.  One of the defendants is separately charged with passport fraud.  

The indictment alleges that the defendants were involved in a sophisticated fraudulent scheme organized by conspirators in India, including a network of call centers in Ahmedabad, India.  Using information obtained from data brokers and other sources, call center operators allegedly called potential victims while impersonating officials from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  According to the indictment, the call center operators then threatened potential victims with arrest, imprisonment, fines or deportation if they did not pay taxes or penalties to the government.  If the victims agreed to pay, the call centers would then immediately turn to a network of U.S.-based co-conspirators to liquidate and launder the extorted funds as quickly as possible by purchasing prepaid debit cards or through wire transfers.  The prepaid debit cards were often registered using misappropriated personal identifying information of thousands of identity theft victims, and the wire transfers were directed by the criminal associates using fake names and fraudulent identifications.  

The co-conspirators allegedly used “hawalas,” in which money is transferred internationally outside of the formal banking system, to direct the extorted funds to accounts belonging to U.S.-based individuals.  According to the indictment, these individuals were expecting the hawala transfers but were not aware of the illicit nature of the funds.  The co-conspirators also allegedly kept a percentage of the proceeds for themselves.

According to the indictment, one of the call centers extorted $12,300 from an 85-year-old victim from San Diego, California, after threatening her with arrest if she did not pay fictitious tax violations.  On the same day that she was extorted, one of the U.S.-based defendants allegedly used a reloadable debit card funded with the victim’s money to purchase money orders in Frisco, Texas.

The indictment also alleges that the defendants extorted $136,000 from a victim in Hayward, California, who they called multiple times over a period of 20 days, fraudulently purporting to be IRS agents and demanding payment for alleged tax violations.  The victim was then directed to purchase 276 stored value cards which the defendants then transferred to reloadable debit cards.  Some of the victim’s money ended up on cards which were activated using stolen personal identifying information from U.S.- based victims.    

The conspirators would at times allegedly use alternative fraudulent schemes in which the call center operators would offer the victims small short-term loans or advise them that they were eligible for grants.  The indictment alleges that the conspirators would then request a good-faith deposit to show the victims’ ability to pay back the loan, or payment of a fee to process the grant.  The victims of the alleged scam never received any money after making the requested payment. 
An indictment is merely an allegation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

DHS OIG, HSI and TIGTA led the investigation.  The Ft. Bend, Texas, County Sheriff’s Department; the Hoffman Estates, Illinois, Police Department; the Leonia, New Jersey, Police Department; the Naperville, Illinois, Police Department; the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office Family Protection/Elder Abuse Unit; the U.S. Secret Service; U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General; IOC-2; INTERPOL Washington; and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices of the Northern District of Alabama, District of Arizona, Central District of California, Northern District of California, District of Colorado, Northern District of Florida, Middle District of Florida, Northern District of Illinois, Northern District of Indiana, District of Nevada and District of New Jersey provided significant support in this case.  The Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau provided  assistance in TIGTA’s investigation.
Senior Trial Attorney Hope Olds and Trial Attorney Michael Sheckels of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, Trial Attorney Robert Stapleton of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys S. Mark McIntyre and Craig Feazel of the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting the case.  

A Department of Justice website has been established to provide information about the case to already identified and potential victims, and the public.  Anyone who believes they may be a victim of fraud or identity theft in relation to this investigation or other telefraud scam phone calls may contact the FTC via this website.

Anyone who wants additional information about telefraud scams generally, or preventing identity theft or fraudulent use of their identity information, may obtain helpful information on the IRS tax scams website, the FTC phone scam website and the FTC identity theft website
Updated October 27, 2016 


NRIpress.Club Reports 

Oct 05, 2016

  • The call centers were collecting some $90,000 to $150,000 a day and had been operating for a year.
  • Indian police arrested 70 people and 600 people were under investigation
  • According to Local Police Station, there are 600 people are being questioned and will be charged as running the fake call centers.
  • The Indian Govt. filed criminal charges against the suspects include extortion, impersonation and violations of India’s information technology laws.
    • One Indian New Delhi Lawyer Suresh Gupta who is on US trip said, “In India, it would take 15-20 years to punish these culprits and this is just a drama to show US Justice Department
  • The call centers are using magicJack VoIP phone numbers for consumers to “call back” as part of this attack.
  • The call centers operating out of India and are seeking approximately $4,000-$5000 per successful attack.
  • The call centers are asking consumers to use GreenDot MoneyPak service to wire money to a Paypal account.
  • NRIpress Club estimate the number of attack calls has already likely exceeded 500,000 in Sep.

The IRS reports receiving more than 900,000 complaints about similar scam calls since October 2013. More than 5,000 people have fallen for the scam, paying out more than $26 million collectively as a result of scams.



Behind call centre scam of Rs 500 cr, shell firms, few checks

The Indian Express//--Written by Khushboo Narayan , Rashmi Rajput | Mumbai | Updated: October 9, 2016 9:38 am

Thane police commissioner Param Bir Singh said victims in the US were threatened with tax investigation by call centre executives of these firms pretending to be officials from the IRS.

Financial records of a string of companies, being investigated by Thane police for running call centres that allegedly duped over 6,000 US citizens of at least Rs 500 crore, have uncovered shell companies with a capital of just Rs 1 lakh, and little disclosure or mandatory filings of financial and company-related details after incorporation........................READ


Maharashtra call centre scam: All you need to know

TNN | Updated: Oct 6, 2016, 02.28 PM IST
70 people have been arrested so far. (PTI photo)
NEW DELHI: The Mira Road call centre scam+ is believed to have robbed US citizens of Rs 500 crore in the last one year. The three call centres were collectively pocketing around Rs 1 to 1.5 crore daily. 70 people have been arrested so far and showcause notices have been slapped on 630 other employee....................READ


READ 89 comments

A call center in INDIA is using your program to scam computers

I just received a phone call from an India call center. They told me to download to my computer... I think thee is a MAJOR SCAM happening & if I would have downloaded this program... they would have had access to my computer... especially since they asked for the 6 digit number... which I now realize was an access code. I hope you will look into this, because eventually they will happen upon someone that will do as they say & they will have remote access

Sandra Petti commented  ·  October 28, 2016 09:05
Scam!!! I purchased a new computer and prepaid Microsoft office 365 at Walmart during installation of the office 365 a pop up stating that it recognize the activation code that there was an error and to call this number which turns out to be a call center in India. The person who answere