Delhi call centre that cheated foreign nationals of about US$14 million busted, 54 held

New Delhi (IANS): The Delhi Police’s Cyber Crime Unit has busted a call centre in the city where employees impersonated various law enforcement agencies to cheat and extort money from unsuspecting people abroad, police said on Wednesday.

Foreign nationals from US and other countries were threatened with legal action and made to transfer money via Bitcoins and Google gift cards. A total of 54 people were arrested and 89 desktops along with a server have been seized.

According to police, the accused used an elaborate written script to dupe more than 4,500 persons of around Rs 90-100 crore [US$14 million].

Based on information that a huge illegal call centre was being operated from Moti Nagar to target foreign nationals and illegally inducing them to transfer money through Bitcoins and gift cards, a team was formed and a raid was conducted. It was found that the premises were being used to run an illegal call centre from where the accused persons were calling up people in the US and other countries impersonating various law enforcement agencies and inducing them to transfer large amounts of money after threatening them with legal action.

The arrested – 45 men and nine women – included four team leaders and ‘closers’ (persons responsible for ensuring that the victim ends up transferring money and thus, the call is ‘closed’).

“On interrogation, the accused persons disclosed that they contact foreign nationals based in the US and other countries impersonating various law enforcement agencies and other government agencies such as the Social Security Administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the US Marshals Service, and tell them that their bank accounts and other assets are being frozen as their details have been found at a crime scene and there are bank accounts running in their names using which illegal transactions have been made to drug cartels in Mexico and Colombia. They also threaten the victims with immediate arrest,” Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), Cyber Crime, Anyesh Roy, said.

Once the victim became apprehensive, the accused used to give them two options. One was to go for a legal action in which the victim would first be arrested and their assets seized and only later on, could the victim fight it out in court. The second option was to go for an Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) which would be faster and simpler.

When the victim chose to go for ADR, they asked them to share all the details of their assets, including bank accounts and the amount of money in those accounts. The victim was then told that there was only one way to safeguard their assets; they would have to buy either Bitcoins or Google Gift Cards worth all the money in their accounts. If the victim agreed to buy Bitcoins, the accused would induce them to convert all the money in their accounts into Bitcoins and transfer the same to the wallets operated by the accused persons, saying that it was a safe government wallet.

If the victim agreed to buy Gift Cards, they induced them to share the number of the cards stating that it would be linked to their new bank accounts and thus, be safe.

This was corroborated by the written script recovered from the possession of the accused which describes the entire modus operandi step by step in detail and acts as a guide for the accused persons.

“The script has also been seized, along with digital devices and the mobile phones of the accused, which were used in the commission of the offence. The case is under investigation and help is being obtained from the forensic labs of CyPAD-NCFL [Cyber Prevention Awareness and Detection Centre and the National Cyber Forensic Lab] Delhi to retrieve crucial digital evidence and linkages. Efforts are being made to identify the involvement of others,” the officer added.

The initial investigation has revealed that the owner of this call centre is managing the operations from Dubai. Further investigation is underway.

A call centre in Gurugram.

MEANWHILE, in the city of Gurugram, Haryana state, situated near the Delhi border, the so-called Haryana Chief Minister’s flying squad has busted two illegal call centres operating in Gurugram, police said on Wednesday.

The call centres mostly used to cheat US nationals on the pretext of redeemed gift coupons of values ranging from US$1,000 to US$5,000 and used to charge US$100 to US$500 as service charge per client, the police said.

The police have also recovered Rs 850,000 [about US$11,000], two laptops and a hard-disk along with other electronic gadgets during the raid.

According to the police, a team from the CM’s flying squad led by Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Inderjeet raided the call centres which were running on the fourth floor office number 401 and 404, in Spaze IT Park building at Sector-49 in Gurugram following a tip-off .

During the first raid, the police noticed that 10 people, including four females, were working in office number 401 while 12 youths, including two females, were working in office number 404, communicating with US nationals.

However, after questioning the police released the youths who were working there.

In connection with the incidents, the CM’s flying wing arrested two brothers identified as Anshu Mehta (33) and Akshay Mehta (34) of Laxmi Nagar, the owners of the call centre operated in 401, and recovered Rs 850,000 from their possession.

The owner of the second call centre was identified as Ansh Saxena (28), a resident of Indirapuram in Ghaziabad.

The accused disclosed that they used to work at a city-based call centre six years ago during which they got the idea of opening their own call centre. Both the call centres had been operating since last month.

“These fake call centres have cheated several US citizens on the pretext of providing gift coupons. The youths were employed at the call centres, which were being operated without a license issued by the Department of Telecommunications (DOT),” said Inderjeet.

“During the questioning, the accused revealed that they lured their target on pretext of lucrative gift coupons online and used to charge nearly $100 to $500 per client as service charge,” he said.

Police said that they have busted more than 25 fake call centre rackets in Gurugram this year.