A RENTED apartment, computers on hire and a few willing friends with call centre experience is all that it took the 14 people arrested by the Mumbai Crime Branch to run the ‘Internal Revenue Service (IRS)’ scam that targeted US nationals. As per police estimates, it would have taken the accused less than Rs 2 lakh to run the call centre that enabled them to earn a minimum of Rs 10 lakh per month. Unfortunately for them, within four months of carrying out the fraud, the Crime Branch got a tipoff and the scam was busted when the police raided the two call centres in Malad.
An officer linked to the probe said there are several fly-by-night operators who run similar scams. “Even the accused in this case had worked at another illegal call centre in Kandivali that was running the IRS scam nearly a year back. The earlier operator, however, decided he had made enough money, shut the call centre and fled. At that point, some of these accused who, by now knew how the scam worked, decided to start the two call centres that we raided on Thursday night,” the officer said.
A senior officer said while the Thane call centre busted last year was a big operation, there are several fly-by-night operators running ‘IRS’ scams from rented tenements. “They then take computers on rent and get most of their friends as employees. They only hire people who they trust will not spill the beans on them. Apart from this they need the IRS script which is not difficult to get, the servers through which messages are delivered to US citizens and someone who can convert payments received in I-tunes cards into cash,” the officer said.
He added that in this particular case, the earlier call centre where the accused were working had a network of people who would supply the technical expertise and route the money from the I-tunes card back to India. “The accused simply used the earlier contacts to run this call centre as well. It was quite easy for them to set up the entire thing,” said an officer.
The police added they had sent messages to several US nationals asking them to contact the Mumbai Police. “We have used the same system that was used by the accused to contact US nationals by leaving bulk messages where they claimed to be calling from the IRS and asking them to call back urgently,” an officer added.
The IRS scam that has been targeting US citizens for years comprises of a fraudster leaving messages to US nationals to call back urgently. Once the person calls back, it connects to the fraudulent call centres where the callers pretending to represent IRS tell the caller that there is outstanding payments. The caller is then asked to make immediate payments using I-tune cards and is offered a “discount” on the overdue amount. If the payment is not made, the caller is threatened with arrest.
The Crime Branch on Thursday night busted a similar fraud that was thriving from two call centres operating out of Malad. A total of 14 people were arrested by the police including the callers, the person who provided data on US nationals and the one responsible for converting the I-tune cards into cash and routing it back to India.