Scams over the phone continue to be quite profitable, as evident by three call centers in Thane district of Mumbai which brought a profit of over $75 million to the scammers. The call centers are already shut down by the Indian police force, and 70 suspects have been arrested. The police has issued notices for 630 more suspects. Apparently, the call centers have successfully carried out a number of financial scams, with primary targets being US citizens.
Scams Were Sophisticated and Convincing
Call center operators would call US citizens and pose as US tax agents for the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). The operators were using a convincing American accent, VoIP technology to hide their real location. The calls were made under the pretext that the call recipient had defaulted on their taxes. The victims were intimated with charges, fines, or even arrest.
As reported, first the callers would demand large amount of money, but later would decrease the so-called fees (apparently, to increase the chances of payment). According to the police, one in twenty victims ended up being convinced and proceeded with the payment. This means that all three call centers were making somewhere between $150,000 and $225,000 on a daily basis.
US authorities already took actions and contacted Indian officials. As reported, there were US-based members among the callers, who most likely took a 30% cut of the payments. Unfortunately, as reported by Times of India, the police couldn’t arrest the owners of the three call centers. As of how the story went public, a former employee tipped the police off.
Officials believe the call centers are just a part of a larger network, and new employees are recruited and trained quickly. US citizens aside, UK and Australian people may have been approached as well.
As a result of the police raid, 852 hard disks, high-end servers, DVRs, laptops and other equipment were seized. More arrests are expected to take place, as the investigation is still ongoing and the police is currently examining the evidence.
The calls may be considered a vivid example of a vishing scam.
What Is Vishing?
Vishing, or voice phishing, is any attempt of fraudsters to persuade the victim to deliver personal information or transfer money over the phone. Hence, “voice phisihing”. You should be very careful with any unexpected calls from unknown numbers. Fraudsters have learnt how to be extremely persuasive, as they have adopted various techniques to make their scenarios believable.
To avoid falling victim to a scam over the phone, be on the lookout for the following:
- The caller knows a lot about you. Before reaching out to you, the fraudster has already done his job and has access to your name, address, phone number (obviously), and in many cases, banking information. If a caller knows so much about you, he can’t be a scammer. Well, think twice. In a single case told by BBC’s Marie Keyworth, a victim of vishing was successfully persuaded to transfer £100,000 into the scammers’ bank account!
- The caller is pressuring you to do something quickly. In the case mentioned above, the victim was made to believe her money was in danger and that she needed to act immediately. Using fear to make a person do something is a well-played psychological trick. Always question what you are told. You better be the psychologist, not the patient, so to speak.
- The caller is calling from a believable phone number. Why is that? Two words – phone spoofing. The number will be made to look like it’s coming from a trustworthy entity, so that you answer the call. The second you answer, the fraudster has done half of its job. It’s up to you whether he will finish what he has started or not.
- The caller is holding the line. Why is he doing so? In case you call your bank, for example, you will be put straight back to the scammer.
- The caller is calling from a noisy place. This is also a trick. The scammer knows that everything should sound believable, and he can play a CD with sound effects to make it look like he’s calling from a call center. Well, in fact, he may be calling from a call center, as visible by the case described in the article above.