In the fight against fraud, scams, and identity theft, one of the major obstacles is the anonymous and often global nature of the crime. Scammers can be located virtually anywhere, and thanks to the technology that powers their crime, finding the criminals can be like looking for a needle in a worldwide haystack.
But law enforcement officers have recently scored a major victory against international scammers thanks to an insider tip. Multiple call centers in India were investigated and raided after a report that the employees were tasked with texting US phone numbers with warnings about overdue taxes. When the recipients called the number provided in the message, the call center staff would pose as American IRS agents and demand payment. In many cases, the calls included threats that the police were on their way to arrest the victims for failure to pay what they allegedly owed.
Scams like this one work because of the ominous nature of the revenue service, at least in the minds of consumers. Unfortunately, that reputation is undeserved, even if it’s widespread. The IRS does not contact anyone via text or phone call to demand payment, and any legitimate correspondence begins with a letter mailed through the postal service so the recipient has a paper trail in their case.
In the case of these particular call centers, more than seventy people were arrested, including the owners, managers, and supervisors. Another 600 staff members are still being investigated as they were the actual callers. So far, the investigation has led to estimates that over $100,000 a day was collected throughout the course of the year that the centers were in operation. Local authorities are working with the FBI to try to sort out where those funds originated, ideally to return some of the victims’ money.
Cases like this one are truly a happy ending in the crime of identity theft and fraud. It’s uncommon that victims of scams like this one ever find out who perpetrated the crime, let alone have any hope of recovering some of their stolen money. That’s why security experts and advocates work hard to raise awareness of scams and fraud, hoping to prevent more citizens from becoming victims.
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