Indian call center fraudsters scammed a massive number of U.S citizens and snatched around $17 million in the process. The scammers were stationed within the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh state and had been operating from there for a while. It was reported that the gang of scammers have been arrested and the entire operation has been brought down to the ground. This somewhat queer scam involved the scammers manipulating vital citizen information and used it to collect bitcoin from the victims.
Contacting the specific person (the potential victim), they were told that their Social Security Number (SSN) was utilized in illegal activity. The fraudster posing as the official Social Security Administration employee, would tell the victim that their potential arrest is possible unless they give off some money in bitcoins. The bewildered victim would offer them the asked ‘ransom’ and their fake arrest would be called off.
Accused Victims for Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering
The fraud was put so as to seem as legitimate as possible. The source of all the vital information including the Social Security Numbers for over 100,000 U.S. citizens are unknown as the authorities planned to investigate the issue furthermore. The victim would be accused of intense illegalities like drug trafficking and money laundering which being extremely heinous were told to be pursued with an eventual arrest. This would rattle the victim who would give in the asked fee in bitcoin.
In total, 78 people are arrested till now and they were tasked for retrieving the information that included the SSNs along with contact information and residential addresses. The Superintendent of Police, Jitendra Singh mentioned that fraudsters would contact the person and explain the fake illegal activities associated with their Social Security Number. They would demand between $50 and $5,000 to be paid in bitcoin.
The fake Social Security Administration employees would further threaten the victim that their Social Security Number would be discontinue and blocked in case of non-compliance.
“The tele callers, in chaste US accent, would tell them that for settling the issue they have to pay certain amount otherwise their social security number will be blocked and legal action initiated against them. This way they used to terrorize American citizens and make them pay amounts ranging from USD 50 to 5,000 through gift card, Bitcoin and other online modes”.
Police raided the setup, seizing a large number of devices and a server plus 70 cellphones and 60 computers. The operation was torn down as the the scam team was taken into custody. The confiscated apparatus signified how much of a larger operation the fraudsters were conducting that affected about 1890 people.
Reported Facts Over the Case
The call center scams have been on the rise lately all over the U.S. This specific one was unique in its own way as the Federal Trade Commission reported that there had been over 63,000 fake calls regarding SSN. The source of this data comes from the complaints that the people had been filing with the government since January, 2018. Out of the total 63,000 calls, about 3% have been looted off of their money.
BRProud, a news portal reported in June about another figure of $19 million that have fallen victim to the call centre frauds as compared to the $16.7 that this specific fraud took away.
The source has not disclosed the details about how much was paid in bitcoin and how much in other forms of money, though the authorities assure that the money was paid in other cryptos too. The total officially reported money that the fraudster earn out of this scam was $16.6 million with the median loss being $1,484.
Expert Opinions to Avert These Situations Going Forward
FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection’s Monica Vaca took the focus to the fact that people accept that the call is from the official department whereas the call is from a scammer. There should be some sort of check and validation from both sides in order to avoid similar frauds in the frauds. Though this might seem complex, Vaca mentioned that this is attainable. She further said,
People have their guard down, and they’re more likely to believe that it is the Social Security Administration that’s calling, when in fact, of course, it’s not. It’s a scammer.
Sharane Gott, with the Better Business Bureau of Acadiana is of somewhat differing opinion mentioning that the scammers have some legitimate information about the potential victim. He further describes that their oratory and person-oriented information leads the victim to believe and open up to them. This makes it difficult to set a validation check for both the parties. Gott says,
They usually have some piece of information about your identity, and in some cases, they have the last four digits of your Social Security Number.
On the other hand Gott also focuses over the fact the SS administration does not call you unless you have an appointment and people should not consider reliable any other contact from the department.
Unless you have an appointment set up with social security to call you, social security or a government agency will not call you.
Efforts are being made to avert these sort of circumstances in the future. The measures included not giving out information over the phone keeping in mind that the government departments will contact you firstly sending letters or notifications.
Here’s some tips on how to avoid these Social Security Administration phone scam calls:
- Make sure you never give out your personal information over the phone.
- Do not trust your caller ID. Many scammers “spoof” phone numbers to make you trust them.
- Government agencies do not call unsolicited. Rather, they send letters if they need to contact you.
Similar Call Center Scam Previously Caught by Authorities
A similar case was apprehended by the Indian authorities in Mumbai suburb. The scheme of the scammers was to inform the foreigners, majorly of the United States that they are behind in paying up all of their taxes and that they need to pay up fast. The scammers would provide the details for the ‘quick’ payment and the victims would buy in.On another occasion, another system to trap US citizens was unearthed that earned scammers millions. Around 6,400 residents of the United States fell victim to this plot.
People are prone to these sort of frauds and give up easily as the scammer informs the potential victim of the urgency of the matter and consequences which shock victims. There must be suitable validation with every department in order to clear off an encrypted route.