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Fake IRS busted: They duped US citizens from a Thane call centre

Ashwin Aghor | Updated on: 6 October 2016, 10:33 IST

In a late night raid on Tuesday, Maharashtra police busted an international racket that conned unsuspecting people by posing as Income Tax Department officials. The crooks extorted money from people in the name of tax evasion. The racket is said to have duped many American citizens as well as Indians. The raid was conducted at Mira Road, in Thane district, near Mumbai. Police has arrested 700 people operating from a call centre at Mira Road. This is probably the biggest raid of this nature ever conducted in the country.

According to a senior police official who did not wish to be named, a team of 200 officials and personnel from Thane Crime branch conducted the raid in Mira Road.

"The accused targeted tax-payers from foreign countries and conned them in the name of tax revision. The callers, posing as income tax department officials, would ask for bank account details for verification and payment of taxes. Once they got the details, the crooks would siphon off money from the account," the official said.

Raids on seven call centres in Mira Road were conducted simultaneously on the night of 4 October. Police sources said that different people operated seven call centres at seventh floor of Delta Tower in Mira Road.

Modus operandi

The employees of these call centres would call unsuspecting people from foreign countries posing as banking or insurance executives or income tax department officials. They would offer lucrative cash back on surrender of credit card or insurance policy.

"The culprits would call innocent people in foreign countires, especially America, and threaten them of coercive action for tax evasion. The person would get terrified and would agree to whatever the caller said. Thus they would extract bank account details and then the money would be siphoned off," the official said. The investigators suspect involvement of an international racket in the scam.

Police sources said that as the call centre employees are trained in speaking in an American accent, it wasn't difficult for them to pose as Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials and con the unsuspecting US citizens into disclosing their bank details.

Then they siphoned money from the accounts.

How police cracked the case

The Maharashtra police had got information about the activity and the call centre was under surveillance for last few months. "It took some months to zero in on the call centre and understand the modus operendi. Once we got hold of the details, the call centre was raided at night. Because it is the time when they would call the American citizens," the official said.

It is estimated that the crooks targeted around 3.5 lakh people and siphoned billions of dollars

Elaborating about the modus operendi, the police official said, "When the culprits would call American citizens it would display 911 as caller on their phones. Once the call would be answered, they would threaten them of legal action posing to be IRS officials. This would scare the people and they would divulge all the confidential details about their bank accounts. The call centres here would make an estimated Rs 1 crore per shift during March and April every year when tax assessments are done."

It is learnt that scam is going on for two years now. First noticed in 2014, the US based Federal Trade Commission, had cautioned citizens of America about the fake calls from people posing as IRS officials. It is estimated that the crooks have targeted around 3.5 lakh people and siphoned billions of dollars. The Commission had cautioned the citizen to verify the authenticity of such calls before sharing any confidential information.

First published: 6 October 2016, 6:25 IST