THANE, India, Oct. 6 (UPI) — Authorities in India have dropped the hammer on several “call centers” that were nerve centers for an aggressive scam intended to swindle Americans out of cash by posing as the Internal Revenue Service.
Indian police said at least 70 people have been arrested for taking part in the scam and investigators are looking at hundreds more. Nine call centers were disrupted by the crackdown.
“They were stunned to see the police,” deputy police commissioner Parag Manere, who supervised the raid, said. “They never thought that police would raid them.”
The suspects were charged with extortion, fraud and the use of a criminal threat.
The goal of the scammers is simple, officials say — call as many U.S. residents as possible, pose as an IRS agent and tell them they owe back taxes. The coup de grace comes when the scammers tell the unsuspecting, and often frightened, Americans that they will be arrested and taken to jail unless they pony up the cash immediately.
Authorities say the scammers often don’t raise suspicion because they speak with an American accent and they give no indication the money is going overseas. Officials say they set it up so the cash was wired to U.S. bank accounts before being transferred to India.
And a lot of people fell for it.
Incredibly, the bogus IRS call centers were taking in about $150,000 per day for a year before the con was uncovered.
So far, some of the big wigs of the scam have eluded capture and Indian authorities believe there are almost certainly accomplices in the United States.
Indian investigators got into position to bust the IRS ring after an informant came forward a few weeks ago. Police said more than 600 other suspected scammers are under investigation and could also be arrested.
Impersonating the IRS to unlawfully collect money is hardly a new concept. Several people have been arrested and charged inside the United States in recent years for doing the same thing. Authorities say millions of dollars have been swindled out of residents since the scam started about three years ago.