32 arrested at Indian call centre that targeted Canadians
TORONTO – Indian authorities say they have shut down a call centre where dozens of people tried to dupe Canadians into handing over money through a phone scam involving social insurance numbers.
Sameer Sharma, a deputy police commissioner in New Delhi, said in a statement that the "swanky international scam call centre targeting Canadian citizens" first came to the attention of police on Friday.
Officers moved in on Sunday, arresting 32 people and seizing electronic equipment including 55 computers and 35 phones. Also allegedly taken by police were "script pages" that directed call centre workers on what to say.
According to Sharma, police arrived to find several scam calls in progress with associated computer screens displaying Canadian phone numbers.Three supervisors were also present.
"The supervisors … were asked about the activity going on there but they could not give any satisfactory answer," he said.
"On sustained questioning, they divulged that they were engaged in calling [Canadians] and impersonating [themselves] as genuine Canadian police."
The 32 people who were arrested are mostly in their 20s or late teens, although some are as old as 37.
All 32 were arrested on breaches of the Indian Telegraph Act, Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act and Information Technology Act. The accusations include that they purchased unauthorized VOIP call minutes from international markets, costing the Indian government a substantial amount of money.
The four men believed to own the call centre were not present and are being sought by police, Sharma said.
HOW THE SCAM WORKS
Police are aware of one Canadian who was duped out of $13,500 by the raided call centre.
Sharma said that, for victims, the scam typically begins with a robocall purporting to come from Service Canada. The call typically claims that some sort of allegations have been linked to the victim's SIN and that they will be arrested and imprisoned if they do not call back.
Anyone who does call back is threatened further before the scammer offers to "settle the matter" with a payment, Sharma said.
These payments usually come via prepaid credit cards, iTunes gift cards or Bitcoin. Police said one of the phones they seized has an app that could be used to receive Bitcoin payments.
The call centre is believed to have primarily operated at nighttime in New Delhi, which is morning and afternoon in most of Canada.
KEEPING YOURSELF SAFE
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre offers a host of resources to protect Canadians against duplicitous phone calls and other scams.
It says that the SIN scam is relatively new, and that callers using this scam may claim to be from the RCMP or a local courthouse rather than Service Canada.
It also reminds people not to trust call display readings, as scammers can use call spoofing to claim to be calling from a number that is not actually theirs. Sharma said the scammers in New Delhi were regularly doing this to make it appear as though their calls were coming from Canada.
Anytime someone calls claiming to represent a government agency and seeking personal information, authorities say it is best to hang up, look up the agency's phone number and call it directly to verify any claims made in the first call.
The anti-fraud centre further notes that anyone receiving a request for payment via an iTunes gift card or another difficult-to-trace cash equivalent should immediately be suspicious.