Arrests made in bogus IRS phone scam
Investigation leads to arrests
A multi-agency investigation into a widespread IRS scam has resulted in the arrest of dozens of suspects in the US and internationally.
Scammers posing as Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents and officers have been calling taxpayers to demand bogus payments, at the same time threatening jail or deportation for those who fail to comply with their requests. The scam has not only netted the fraudsters millions of dollars but has also led to the use of automated calls that leave similarly aggressive messages.
A total of 20 arrests have been made in the United States and moves are afoot to seek the extradition of individuals from India, which is where the calls originated. Some arrests have already been made in India – 70 call centre workers were taken into custody for their alleged roles in the scams, following a police raid in Mumbai. A further 750 operators were detained as part of an ‘ongoing investigation’, according to a police spokesperson.
Bogus calls from Indian call centres
It’s thought that as part of this campaign, bogus calls had been made from up to seven Mumbai call centres over a period of several months, netting around 10m rupees per day (almost $150,000 US), or nearly 700 times the average monthly wage for Indian workers.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) outlined the alleged activities in an indictment, charging the defendants with conspiracy to commit identity theft, false impersonation of an officer of the United States, wire fraud, and money laundering, and labelling it ‘the largest single domestic law enforcement action to date involving this scam.’
The indictment alleges that the defendants were part of a sophisticated scheme coordinated between conspirators in India and the US.
Working with personal information obtained from sources including social media, call centre operators apparently rang potential victims, impersonating agents from the IRS and demanding bogus payments and threatening arrest for non-compliance. So-called ‘MagicJack’ technology allowed operators to appear to making the calls from within the US.
Operators also posed as officers from Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) and as representatives of payday loan companies and government departments responsible for awarding grants. Further arrests are likely.