Defendant had worked as call center agent in India, defrauding victims in Canada, US, UK, Australia, South Africa
DENVER, Colorado – United States Attorney Jason R. Dunn announced on January 24 that Safder Iqbal, 28, an Indian national, was sentenced to serve 60 months (five years) in federal prison followed by three years on supervised release for participating in several scams involving call centers. Iqbal was also ordered to pay $377,889.35 in restitution to the victims. He was remanded into custody immediately after the sentencing hearing.
According to court records, including the stipulated facts contained in the defendant’s plea agreement, Iqbal travelled to the United States from his native country of India in April 2018 to work at a hotel in Colorado Springs through the J-1 visa program. Iqbal then implemented a number of different scams.
The first scam involved call centers where he and others falsely notified victims that they had erroneously received, or would receive, a refund for computer tech-support services. Victims were called by India-based call center agents who claimed to work for tech support companies. In many instances, the victims were persuaded to allow the agents to access their computer via remote access software. Once inside the computer, the agents collected information about the victims’ bank accounts, accessed victim bank accounts online, and generated statements falsely claiming the victims had received a deposit when, in fact, they had not.
For example, the defendant opened a bank account that he used to deposit money from an elderly victim that he tricked into providing money to the defendant and others through the refund scam. The victim, was defrauded out of approximately $20,000. Iqbal also took money from another out-of-state victim who was defrauded of $50,000 through a combination of the refund scam and another scam involving tech support.
The tech support scam involved deceiving victims believing that they had a serious computer problem. Sometimes these victims would encounter a “pop up” on their computer while browsing the internet. These pop ups would falsely tell the victim that there was a problem with their computer and would provide a number for tech support. Calls to that number would be answered by an India-based scheme participant.
These agents would then offer to diagnose the problem and persuade the victim to provide access to the victim’s computer through remote access software. Once inside the victim’s computer, the agents would use simple commands to make it appear that there was a problem with the computer when, in fact, there was not. The agents would then ask for money to perform tech support services.
Victims of both the refund and tech support scams were directed to pay the participants of the scheme using a variety of means. Some victims were persuaded to purchase gift cards at retail stores and then provide the gift card number directly to the calling agents. Others were told to use a money transfer service to send the money to “receivers” (including defendant Safder Iqbal) with established bank accounts in the United States and elsewhere.
Members of the scheme also simply commandeered the victims’ computer, accessed their bank accounts using the internet, and used the illicit access to transfer money. It is estimated that the defendant and others took over $377,000 from their victims.
Court records show that even before coming to the United States to work as a receiver, the defendant had several roles in various India-based fraud schemes. He had previously worked as a call center agent working to defraud victims in the United States and around the world, including in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa. He had also served as a “broker” helping to connect the India-based owners of scam call centers with receivers who could accept money from victims in their native countries. At one point, the defendant used proceeds of the scheme to run his own call center in India.
“Stealing from the elderly and vulnerable is a crime that can threaten the victim’s ability to pay their most basic living expenses,” said Dunn. “Prison is an appropriate place for those like this defendant who come to this country for no other reason than to scam people.”
“The FBI is committed to proactively and thoroughly investigating criminal activities that harm our elderly community members,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Dean Phillips. “Thanks to the diligence and perseverance of our investigators, law enforcement partners, and U.S. Attorney’s Office, Safder Iqbal will no longer victimize senior citizens with his fraud scheme.”
The prison sentence was pronounced by U.S. District Court Judge William J. Martinez. Co-defendant Danish Rashid, who pleaded guilty in August 2019 to participating in the scheme, is due to be sentenced on February 5.
Anyone who believes they may be a victim of tele-fraud is encouraged to contact the FTC via this website.
Additional resources providing information about the Department of Justice’s efforts to combat these scams can be found at the website for the Department’s Elder Justice Initiative.