Indian law enforcement have arrested 772 individuals after they conducted raids against several U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) scam centers.
On 4 October, 200 Indian police officers raided nine call centers in Mumbai where they believe hundreds of people impersonated United States tax collectors.
The call centers first obtained the phone numbers of ordinary American citizens from groups that traffic in people’s stolen data.
Using that information, staffers at the call centers reached out to their targets via Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) while posing as IRS officers. They told victims they owed money, and they said police were on their way to arrest them or seize their house if they did not reveal their banking details.
Parambir Singh, commissioner of the Thane Police, says the scammers often took their fake threats to an extreme level. As quoted by Mid-Day:
“They have even made residents cry and plead if the latter requested for time saying they were on their way to some event, saying the IRS officials would land up at the event and shame them in front of everyone. They used a number of ways to threaten [their victims]….”
After obtaining their banking information, fraudsters told their victims to stay on the line and purchase a prepaid card at a store like Walmart or Target. They then had instructions to load the money onto the cards and transfer the money to an American bank account.
The call centers contacted a total of 1.2 million Americans. 6,400 of them fell for the scam, with 348 of the victims alone paying out approximately $1.4 million.
Indian police received a tip about the call centers and conducted two rounds of raids after they sent in a mole to verify the call centers’ illegal activity.
Thus far, they’ve arrested 772 people and seized 851 hard drives containing the centers’ recorded calls placed to victims.
As the fake tax collectors targeted American citizens, the Federal Bureau of Investigations has approached the Thane Police about the scam.
Singh told Mid-Day he and his officers are more than willing to help out U.S. law enforcement:
“We will cooperate with any agency approaching us for information. It’s an international racket and involvement of foreign nationals is suspected. An investigation being conducted from all angles.”
Anyone who feels they might have fallen victim to this scam should contact the IRS or the FBI. In the meantime, users should never give up their personal or financial information to anyone claiming to be an IRS officer.
News of these arrests follows several months after identity thieves attempted to abuse the IRS website and generate E-file PINS for more than 464,000 taxpayers.