Indore: A call centre scam that targeted US citizens was busted by the police with the arrest of 78 people, including 19 women, here in Madhya Pradesh, officials said on Wednesday.
The Indore unit of Madhya Pradesh police's Cyber Cell unearthed the online scam, which involved tele callers with American accent duping US citizens, being operated by a gang from different places in the city, they said.
The gang was operating from three fake call centres in the Vijay Nagar area here and the amount involved in the scam was pegged at around Rs 12 crore, the police said.
"Acting on a tip-off about suspicious activities being carried out from these places in the city, the police arrested the gang leader, Javed Menon (28), and 77 others on Tuesday.
"Among those caught, a majority were tele callers. They were operating from three call centres with a capacity of 25 seats each," Jitendra Singh, Superintendent of Police, Cyber Cell-Indore, told reporters.
"Cops recovered 60 computers, 70 cellphones, server and other gadgets from their possession. They had obtained social security number of 10 lakh US citizens, their mobile numbers and other confidential details," the SP said.
The arrested people hailed from several states across the country, he said.
"The gang leader, a resident of Ahmedabad, is just an 8th class pass. He was operating online call centres to dupe people since the last one year.
"The other members of the gang belonged to Delhi, Haryana, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Punjab and North Eastern states. Aged between 18-32 years, all of them were fluent in English language with US accent, Singh said.
Explaining the gang's modus operandi, Singh said its members used to contact US citizens by sending voice messages and then called on their mobile numbers through a special software.
Tele callers would describe themselves as officers from the US social security unit and tell the victims that their social security number was being used for money laundering and smuggling of narcotic substances, he said.
"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, the SP said.
"This way they used to terrorise American citizens and make them pay amounts ranging from USD 50 to 5,000 through gift card, Bitcoin and other online modes.
"Those who got trapped used to deposit the money in certain American accounts and later through middlemen, it was routed to India through hawala channel after paying 40 per cent commission to them, Singh said.
The police suspect the network has links in other countries also.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is being informed about the scam, the SP said.
Gang leader Javed Menon and his two associates, Bhavil Prajapati (29) and Shahrukh Menon (25), were produced in a local court which remanded them in police custody till June 14.
The remaining 75 accused were sent to jail under judicial custody, he said.
In August last year too, the police had unearthed an illegal call centre here that was involved in duping people in other countries, including the US, on similar lines. A total of 22 people were arrested then, the SP added.