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Sunday, 09 April 2017 10:13

Alleged mastermind of Indian call-centre scam arrested Featured

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A man alleged to be behind duping Americans of millions of dollars through phone scams has been arrested in Mumbai.

In October last year, following an indictment issued by the US Department of Justice, Indian police carried out raids on a number of call centres in a suburb of Mumbai but failed to apprehend the mastermind of the operation.

The Wall Street Journal said that the man was arrested on Saturday morning at the airport on his return from abroad.

Sagar Thakkar was alleged to have started the call centres that carried out the scams and then fled to Dubai and Bangkok when the police got on his trail.

An investigating officer, Nitin Thakare, said the courts had allowed the police to keep Thakkar in custody for interrogation until 13 April. His Audi R8, impounded in October, was being held as evidence.

"He is very intelligent," Param Bir Singh, commissioner of police in the Mumbai suburb of Thane, told the WSJ. "I am very impressed with his knowledge” about this scam call centre business.

The scams against Americans were carried out from call centres in both Mumbai and Ahmedabad, the latter city being in the Indian state of Gujarat.

The call centres named in the indictment are HGlobal, Call Mantra (aka Robust Inc, Raytheon International), Worldwide Solution, Zoriion Communications and Sharma BPO Services.

According to the indictment, the break-up of people charged and their affiliation was – HGlobal: 18 each in India and the US; Call Mantra: three each in India and the US; Worldwide Solution: two in India, three in the US; Zoriion Communications: seven in India; and Sharma BPO Services: two in India. This meant a total of 32 people in India and 24 in the US.

Twenty of the 24 suspects in the US were arrested at the time.

In some cases, people from these call centres pretended to officers of the US Internal Revenue Service and defrauded Americans by claiming they owed money to the IRS and saying they would be arrested and fined if they did not pay their back-taxes right away.

In other cases, staff from these call centres impersonated officers from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services and misled US residents into believing they would be deported unless they paid fines for alleged irregularities with their residence papers.

In a third category of cases, US residents were misled into believing that they were eligible for so-called payday loans and that they needed to pay a small fee upfront to indicate that they had enough funds to repay the loan.

And in a fourth set of cases, the call centres misled Americans into believing they were eligible for fictitious government grants and asked them to pay an upfront fee towards an IRS tax or a processing fee.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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