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500 employees of call centres in Mira Road detained for duping US citizens

Updated on: 05 October,2016 07:10 PM IST  | 
Asif Rizvi |

In a major raid, over 500 employees of some call centres were detained for allegedly threatening US citizens and siphoning off their money in Mira Road area, police said today

500 employees of call centres in Mira Road detained for duping US citizens

The building that houses the call centres at Mira Road

The police busted overnight what could possibly be the biggest impersonation call scams in India and detained over 500 people from nine call centres in Mira Road for cheating thousands, primarily foreign nationals, through the fraud.

Seven of the call centres operated out of a seven-storey building.

500 caal centres Mira Road Mumbai news

The building, Delta, is on Penkar Pada Road in the area, and other call centres operated out of Naya Nagar, around 2 km away. Over 200 police personnel, including officials from the Thane crime branch, the cyber crime branch and the Thane police, cracked down on the call centres around 9.30 pm on Tuesday.

Thane Police Commissioner Parambir Singh

The raids were still on at the time of going to press, and the police were trawling through all of the digital footprint.
mid-day was present at the sites of the raids, where police sources said the fraud could run into hundreds of crores of rupees, and that most of the calls were made to the US.

At the time of going to press, all persons detained were being questioned and their statements recorded in the building itself. The Thane police haven’t yet revealed details of call centres’ modus operandi.

Police sources said the scam could be the biggest such in the country.

International fraud
The 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.

The call centre employees who were detained and questioned all of last night. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

A primary investigation has 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.

A Thane police officer said the call centres operated from 7 pm till early next morning (to target victims in the West during the day).

“It is a case that involves extortion, forgery and cheating. It is an international racket being operated in several countries. The modus operandi is similar but the owners are different. There are hundreds of people involved in it. We are verifying the role of each person in the racket,” said Param Bir Singh, police commissioner, Thane.

Phishing angle
Sources said the police are also probing the angle of online banking fraud since a number of victims could have reported large withdrawals from their bank accounts after giving out the details. “We are taking the help of IT experts and officials from the cyber crime branch as in a few cases, it is suspected that VoIP (voice over internet protocol, a technology that allows one to make voice calls using an Internet connection) was their mode of communicating with the victims to prevent their numbers from being traced. Many callers also used foreign accents to gain the confidence of victims and were also given a few days’ training on phone call etiquette,” said a source.

The team of 20 police officers who were part of the raid

The Thane police officer said the Thane crime branch had been assiduously following up for the last two weeks on information on fake call centres operating out of Mira Road.

Parag Manere, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Thane crime branch, led the joint raids.

The Thane police believe that the case could be of interest to investigating agencies from different countries since it was an international scam. “If an foreign agency approaches us, we will share details with them,” said the police commissioner. 

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