Indian Police Arrest 70 for Targeting Americans in IRS Tax Scam: AP


New Delhi: Indian police have arrested 70 people and are questioning hundreds more after uncovering a massive scam to cheat thousands of Americans out of millions of dollars by posing as US tax authorities and demanding unpaid taxes, a police officer said Thursday.

According to police in Mumbai, the yearlong scam involved running fake call centers that sent voice mail messages telling US nationals to call back because they owed back taxes.

Those who believed the threats and called back would fork out thousands of dollars to “settle” their cases, Mumbai police officer Parag Marere said Thursday.

The scam brought in more than $150,000 a day, Marere said without giving a total sum. If the scam netted that amount daily, it would have made almost $55 million in one year.

Some victims also were told to buy gift vouchers from various companies, and hand over the voucher ID numbers, which the impostors then used to make purchases, Marere said.

Police said they are likely to file charges against many of the 600 or more people still being questioned on suspicion of running the fake call centers, housed on several stories of a Mumbai office building.

Those arrested so far include several of the alleged ringleaders, as well as people accused of providing equipment and setting up the fake call centers. The criminal charges filed against the suspects include extortion, impersonation and violations of India’s information technology laws.

“We are questioning those who were involved in the fraud, including those posing as tax investigators,” Marere said.

Police raided the offices this week and seized hundreds of hard disks, high-end servers and other electronic equipment.

Indian media reports said 70 percent of the scam’s proceeds were retained by the suspects in India, while the rest was paid to collaborators in the US.

Indian news broadcaster NDTV reported that one US-based company allegedly collected the victims’ personal information and passed it to the fake call centers.

The scammers, according to another report, spoke with American citizens and were trained to trick the "customers" into a "nervous wreck" with their questions. If a person said, for instance, they he or she has already paid the IRS, the call center "executive" will confidently respond with, "What we are investigating is the miscalculation seen in your tax filed which makes us assume your intention was to defraud the IRS and the income tax law."

To ensure they don’t get traced back easily, these scammers instructed victims to buy gift vouchers from various companies and share the code, the police said, adding that they got a tip-off recently about these people. 

They are questioning around 600 more people who could also be part of the ring. They raided the building earlier this week and seized hundreds of hard drives, servers and other gadgets. According to the police, these scams were oddly very effective, bringing in over $150,000 a day. 




Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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