An Indian call center scam has managed to steal millions of dollars from unsuspected Americans. In a press conference, Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell said a thorough investigation has led to the discovery of a major scam put together by Indian nationals.
The criminals via call centers in India targeted thousands of Americans – mainly senior citizens and immigrants. The callers pretended to be employees of the Internal Revenue Service and other federal agencies and demanded that the American victims pay a nonexistent debt that they owed the government or face tough consequences such as getting their accounts frozen, deportation, or jail time.
More often than not, the Americans would be scared enough to pay the fictive debt. The fraudulent scheme lasted more than four years, and over 15,000 people have been scammed into giving around $50 million. Among the victims is an elderly San Diego woman, who was forced to pay $12,300 after she was told that she would go to jail for a faux tax violation.
A Colorado man, who declined to pay the scammers, landed in serious problems with the law. The scammers called 911 and said the man wanted to kill police officers, prompting law enforcement to swarm his home and search for weapons and explosives.
Caldwell explained that thus far they have raided five call centers that took part in the swindle. The companies have been charged with international fraud and money laundering conspiracy. Police have interrogated 56 people in connection with the scam, 20 of whom have been arrested and charged. The US plans to seek extraditions from India. Caldwell said:
“This transnational criminal ring targeted victims in the United States, impersonating IRS, Immigration, police and other government officials, and demanded immediate payments to avoid deportation, arrest warrants or to cover allegedly unpaid income taxes.”
Caldwell went on to explain how the criminals cheated Americans out of millions. She stated:
“Once the unsuspecting victims paid the fraudulent dues, the call centers relied on a network of U.S.-based associates to cash out and launder the extorted funds as quickly as possible. This was done through a variety of prepaid debit cards, which were often registered by conspirators using personal identifying information of close to 50,000 U.S.-based identity theft victims, or through MoneyGram or Western Union wire transfers conducted with fake names and fraudulent identification.”
J. Russell George, a spokesman for the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, said at the press conference:
“The scammers are persistent. These people are resilient and won’t give up.”
Caldwell begged Americans not to pay anyone, who has threatened them and reminded people that the federal government would never use these kinds of methods. She said:
“If you receive a call like this, do not pay any money. It is not the U.S. government calling you.”
Online commenters say these scams are everywhere.