In a ploy that even a Hollywood scriptwriter would like to incorporate in his/her next movie, hundreds of trained employees at illegal Mira Road call centre have duped citizens of the most technologically advanced country in the world, the US, of Rs. 500 crore in the past one year. As media reports said, these call centres were collectively pocketing around Rs 1 to 1.5 crore daily. So far, 70 people have been arrested so far and show cause notices have been slapped on 630 other employees. But the question remains how did they conceptualise the audacious act? Thorough training, a perfect accent, hawklike alertness, presence of mind and a little bit of help from a few US-based perpetrators were the ingredients that helped run an apparent seamless show which has been stopped.
According to a Times of India report, employees at illegal Mira Road call centre used VoIP to place calls to US citizens; handsets in the US show call coming from number starting +911. Subsequently, the caller used to identify as employee of the dreaded Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the US equivalent of Indian income-tax officers. Caller then used to inform the victim that he/she has defaulted on taxes and must pay up immediately or else IRS would turn up with cops and arrest him. The citizen was convinced by an impeccable US accent that the caller used to speak in. Sometimes the callers sent voice mails declaring the person had defaulted and trapped him with threats.
Call centre employees then used to go for initial demands of $10,000-20,000, however, later settled for $5,000-3,000. They asked that payment to be made through pre-loaded cards.
Now once they secured that the victim was ready to pay the sum, they deviced an unique method to grab the money.
First, victims were asked to share 16-digit code of preloaded cash card with the call centre employee, who then helped debit the decided amount that could be from $500 to 10,000. Then, through the online payment mode, the amount debited by the victim in the cash card was used to be redeemed by the fraudsters.
Now arises the question, how did Americans become the soft targets.
Some of the accused were based in the US; they acquired the contact numbers in the black market and forwarded them to the Mira Road call centre. In the Dark Web, the netherworld of the internet, hackers offered details of US citizens in bulk. Sources said the data could have cost about 1 lakh for 10,000 contacts.
The kingpins of this racket used the social media to invite candidates without any qualification for call centre work. Those who showed potential were asked to undergo rigorous training for US accent. Subsequently, a six-page script was handed to them for mock calls. After perfecting the script, the candidates were inducted as employees. But a small group of employees got selected for closing the calls; they were trained to issue threats and extort money from the US citizens. The US gang members used to transfer 70% of the money grabbed to the call centre management through suspected hawala channels. The employees were strictly paid in cash.