25-year-old mastermind in the R1.5 crore racket was part of the ring that cheated Americans of $300 million, but had moved out to set up own shop before they were busted in 2015
Yogi or Yogesh Sharma, the mastermind
The 25-year-old mastermind in the fake call centre racket busted in Goregaon last week, had honed his skills at the fake call centre at Mira Road that had been busted in October 2015 for duping US nationals out of $300 million. However, Yogi or Yogesh Sharma, a college dropout, had not been working at that call centre during the bust. At the Goregaon call centre, he and his team of nine, four of whom have been arrested along with him, had conned US citizens out of R1.5 crore in just 45 days.
According to the police, the modus operandi was to call their victims through Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) and tell them the call was from the department of social security and that their number had come up in a case of fraudulent activity. They would then ask the scared Americans for cash or gift vouchers to popular online shopping sites as these were difficult to trace.
Pradipkumar Suresh Ram, the IT expert at the call centre
Sharma and his team were working in collusion with a team in the US who used to collect the cash from US citizens. Sharma, who has several years experience working in call centres, had bought the data of 1.5 lakh Americans and would call them through the software VICI Dialer. He had handpicked his team from among those who had previously worked in call centres that catered to American citizens. He ensured that their target would never be able to guess that the caller was not American. The questions asked, too, were carefully curated in order to ward off any suspicion that the caller was not genuine.
Police sources said that they would pose as agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Social Security Administration (SSA) and leave an IVRS message with a number to call back on. Once the victim called back, the accused would pose as an officer from the above government organisations.
Two of the other staffers arrested
The four other accused arrested in this racket have been identified as Naeem Shafi Khan, 31, Abhishek Salian, 31, Asif Rouf Lajekar, 32, and Pradipkumar Suresh Ram, 29. The roles of the others are yet to be determined, the police said. They had rented an office in Goregaon, and each employee was paid a monthly salary of R25,000 and the best closure employee was rewarded with R1 lakh extra.
No. of people at the call centre
Rs 1 lakh
Bonus to employee if they bagged a victim
Size of the database of American citizens that the call centre was working with
Call centre IVRS message:
This is officer xyz from the department of social security administration. The reason you have received this call from our department is to inform you that there is legal enforcement action filed on your social security number for fraudulent activities. When you get this message, kindly call back at the earliest possible on our number before we begin legal proceedings.
Once the victim called back:
Social security administration, this is officer xyz. How can I help you?
May I know whom I am speaking with?
Can I have your first and last name, and the SSN number?
Mr/Mrs abc, can you help me out with your number on which you received a phone call from our officer today?
Mr/Mrs abc, the reason you were contacted was to inform you regarding some legal enforcement action filed on your social security. We have got an order to suspend your social security number at this very moment, because we have found many suspicious activities done on your number.
Did your receive any call from your local police department?
Do you have a piece of paper and pen handy, as you may make note of what I am going to say to you (the caller asked him to write some details like ID: 45-5090310 case ID: DC- 1010, Warrant :51-5671, etc)
I will now go ahead and read out the legal charges against your name. Do not interrupt while I am speaking. You will be given a fair chance after I am done
Your social security number has been found to have been involved in suspicious criminal activities in the state of Texas
Have you ever been in the state of Texas before? (Y/N), because we are taking this issue to the FBI headquarters as we have strong evidence enough to prove your guilt in the courthouse.
The investigation started when we found an abandoned car on the south border of Texas and the car contains some blood and drug residue inside it. Hence, after investigation we found the car was rented in your name and your personal social security information. There are two addresses linked with the title of the vehicle, the address in the city of Roulette was raided by the US Marshals but unfortunately there was no one inside the residence, but we have recovered 22 pounds of cocaine which is an abusive drug and some documentation from a financial institute such as Chase Bank, Bank of America and US Bank, etc.
(Once the victim became suitably scared, the accused keep demanding and extorting money to help the victim get out of the case)
The call centre employee:
Now Mr/Mrs abc, if you want us to exempt your account, I would have to request the court about the same, please hold the line while I do so and let me get back to you with their feedback.
The court has informed me that they are willing to co-operate with you and allow your accounts to be exempted without being shut down.
(They then ask for cash or gift vouchers. The cash is collected by their US counterparts from a metro station in the US (bundling the cash in foil paper – to prevent it from appearing in the scanner machine), said a police officer involved during the raid at the fake call centre.)