In a major embarrassment for India, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) revealed that American citizens lost nearly Rs 25,000 crores ($3 billion) in the past two years in a series of scams originating largely from illegal call centres and phishing gangs in India. The amount is roughly the state budget of Tripura in 2022. Surprisingly, the scam witnessed a major jump in comparison to the last year. In 2021, Americans lost nearly $6.9 billion to fraudsters. Whereas in the last past 11 months, Indian scammers lured $10.2 billion from gullible citizens. These include romance scams, phone scams, mass-mailing fraud schemes, and tech-support fraud schemes.
How do they do it?
According to the statement released by the US Department of Justice, India-based callers mislead American consumers into believing that the callers work for lending institutions and that the victims are eligible for fictitious loans. The India–based callers direct the victims to pay upfront fees to demonstrate their ability to repay the loan. At times, the callers direct victims to provide their bank account information and make it appear as though they had deposited funds into the victims’ accounts. The callers then tell the victims to withdraw the funds and transfer them via wire transfer and gift cards. After the victims send the funds, the deposits that the callers supposedly made bounce. The victims receive nothing in return.
"As part of their Social Security scam, India-based callers pose as federal agents in order to mislead victims into believing that their Social Security numbers were involved in crimes. As part of the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) scam, the callers pose as IRS employees and tell victims that they owe back taxes. In both scenarios, the call centres threaten to arrest the victim if the victim does not send money," read the statement.
"Based on misrepresentations made during the calls, the victims, including a number of Georgia residents, mailed money to a network of individuals who allegedly laundered funds on behalf of the overseas fraud network," it added.
List of the shell companies intercepted during investigations
In February this year, the Treasury Department also released a list of Indian-based call centres and their directors involved in the scam:
- Manu Chawla and Achievers A Spirit of BPO Solutions Private Limited;
- Sushil Sachdeva, Nitin Kumar Wadwani, Swarndeep Singh, a/k/a Sawaran Deep Kohli, and Fintalk Global;
- Dinesh Manohar Sachdev and Global Enterprises;
- Gaje Singh Rathore and Shivaay Communication Private Limited;
- Sanket Modi and SM Technomine Private Limited; and
- Rajiv Solanki and Technomind Info Solutions.
Why India is among the top nations in terms of online and phone scams?
It is worth mentioning India is a hub for call centres for several multinational companies. These companies are generally based in America or other European nations but have been operating call centres or redressal centres in India due to cheap labour. In several investigations, it was found that these call centres auction the data including contact details to scammers in India. They use the same details to connect overseas and target especially senior citizens in America who are generally called "soft targets". Earlier this month, Delhi Police, CBI and FBI, in a joint operation, busted a racket in which five people were arrested who were involved in cheating gullible citizens.
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