Bogus IRS phone scam leads to arrests
Following a multi-agency investigation into a widespread IRS scam, dozens of suspects have been arrested in the US and abroad.
The scam involved a team of callers posing as Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents and officers and demanding bogus payments from tax payers, before threatening jail or deportation for non-compliance. Automated calls leaving aggressive messages were also used. The operation netted the fraudsters millions of dollars.
A total of 20 arrests have been made in the United States and there are plans to seek the extradition of individuals from the call centre in India where calls originated. Some arrests have already been made in India – 70 call centre workers were arrested for their alleged roles in the scams, after a police raid in Mumbai. Another 750 operators were detained as part of an ‘ongoing investigation’, according to a police spokesperson.
Mumbai call centre
It’s alleged that bogus calls were made from up to seven Mumbai call centres over a period of several months, bringing in around 10m rupees per day (almost $150,000 US), which equates to around 700 times the average monthly wage for Indian workers.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has prepared an indictment which charges the defendants with conspiracy to commit identity theft, false impersonation of an officer of the United States, wire fraud, and money laundering, in an operation it has dubbed ‘the largest single domestic law enforcement action to date involving this scam.’
The indictment tells a story of a complex scheme coordinated between conspirators in India and the US.
Using personal information obtained from a range of sources including social media, call centre operators ran the scam over the phone by impersonating agents from the IRS, demanding bogus payments and threatening arrest for non-compliance. So-called ‘MagicJack’ technology allowed operators to appear to making the calls from within the US.
Operators also posed as officers from Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) and as representatives of payday loan companies and government departments responsible for awarding grants. Further arrests are likely.
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