Mira Road call centre scam: What we know so far

Oct 11, 2016, 07:41 IST | mid-day online correspondent

Mira Road call centre scam

Over 700 employees of some call centres were detained for threatening US citizens and siphoning off their money in Mira Road, on October 5. Shocking details have emerged since

What is the scam about?
Non-descript call centres were run by different owners, who hired professionals to make calls to the numbers stored in their database. They had been running the scam for the last seven months. Primary investigations revealed that the database had personal details of thousands of foreign and Indian nationals like their contact numbers, names, addresses and citizenships. Such details were allegedly used to take victims into confidence. Once they convinced their victims of the urgency of the calls — say for defaulting on tax or insurance payments — the fraudsters threatened them with legal action, and coaxed or extorted them into revealing their bank account details. As soon as the details were out, the bank accounts were wiped clean. Alternatively, the victims were encouraged to transfer money to bank accounts provided by the callers. The mastermind is an Indian-American, pulling the strings from the US.

Mira Road call centre scam

How cops infiltrated rogue call centre
Crime Branch sleuths posed as job aspirants and surveyed the premises, while another set mingled with the staff at a paan stall to gain inside info. “Our officer, who’s in his early 30s, had a look inside the premises, the working atmosphere, the floors, etc. He also made a note of the number of people working there and where they would escape from in case of a raid. Accordingly, we prepared the team,” informed an officer. Before the raid, plain-clothed officers also kept a watch on the premises from a distance. “We targeted the food and cigarette stalls outside the call centre during break time. For more than 15 days, we stood there, loudly talking amongst ourselves about unemployment and the desperate search for a job. That’s how we struck up conversations with the employees, on the pretext of inquiring about vacancies,” added the officer, “We warmed up to them and got information and confirmation on the illegality going on inside.”

Mira Road call centre scam

Callers got double pay, incentives
The Thane police, which busted an international racket being run from a Mira Road call centre that placed calls to US citizens posing as IRS officials, said several of those arrested are college dropouts or unemployed youths, who stayed in the job for the handsome salary. A trainee, a dialer, a trainee caller, an HR official, a floor manager, and an ‘executor’ together were involved in the whole con. Waseem Qureshi (26), an SYBCom dropout, had been working with the firm as HR man since the last two months for a monthly salary of Rs 40,000 while Dharmesh Soni (20) was one of the callers, or the dialers, in the firm and was working for more than two years for Rs 30,000 a month.

‘IRS’ officers threatened victim in Gujarati
California resident and chartered accountant Tejas Vakil (44) has approached the Thane police, saying he is among those who were cheated by the Mira Road call centre. He had filed a complaint against the conmen with the Tustin police station in California three months ago. The Vakils have been based in the US since 2000. Speaking to mid-day, Tejas said that after reading the mid-day report, he realised that it was same scam he had been cheated in for. “I had got the call three months ago. My dad Vinod (74) received it. An IRS officer started threatening him, but because he couldn’t understand English, a Gujarati caller came on the line and started speaking. We were told that we had defaulted on tax and if we didn’t pay up, we all would be arrested,” added Tejas.

Mira Road call centre scam

Insider spills the beans
Just one month into his well-paying job, Rakesh (name changed) decided to quit. The reason, he says, was that he found out that he was really being used to cheat aged American citizens and extort money from them by pretending to be from the Internal Revenue Service. After a 15-day orientation programme, he found that the job was collecting tax dues from defaulters in the United States. “I found I had to present myself as an IRS agent and extort money, which was totally illegal,” said Rakesh. As he started getting involved in the nitty-gritty, Rakesh found the numbers he had called during the night were collected and analysed by a team working the day shift.

"It was not an easy task, as we had to talk tough to strangers to get them to pay up. Some of my colleagues used to be thrilled, but it was hard for me. The victims used to literally cry and beg. Over here, it was just another job for us. Everyone was working hard and happy to get the incentives.” Within just a week, Rakesh realised that most victims were senior citizens. It was easy to scare them. “I was so embarrassed after I found that the victims are senior citizens,” said Rakesh. “Labelling them tax defaulters and extort money was not something I could continue doing. I decided to quit the job as I did not want to survive on ill-gotten money.”

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