How Westerners Are Being Duped of Millions of Dollars By Indian Scammers
When I was in graduate school in New Delhi, almost 8 years ago, I met a guy named Sunny.
He was a friend of a friend of mine. He wasn't in our college but he scored weed for us.
At least that was what we thought. Later we found out that he sold us at 50% higher prices.
He would bring us weed, and smoke one or two joints with us as a consideration for his scoring efforts.
He would get high and would impress us by reciting a well learned and practiced script. Which started something like - “Hi I am Peter calling from American Financial Company. Grab a pen and piece of paper…”
He would speak in a typical American accent, so fluent, we couldn’t even get everything he said.
We all would be impressed. I would ask him to repeat, it was fun. And he would. You know the weed 😛. Circles.
He told us that he worked in a call center of some US based finance company.
A lot of foreign companies operate their customer support from India. Because of availability of cheap human resource.
But I knew that call centers don't pay much and their work-ex doesn't have a wider scope of applicability. You will resign from a call center only to join a call center.
One day he came to hand us stuff late in the evening and went away without smoking, as he worked in night shifts.
I was returning with my friend to our room who was a local of Delhi and knew Sunny from a few years.
"Why doesn't he try for a different job? call centers suck." I said.
That was when he told me that he was working in a call center that scammed foreign nationals and explained everything. And he said to me not to tell anyone.
It was not about the salary but the incentive he made, a direct cut in dollars for closing the leads. He earned 2-3 times more than his peers who passed college with him and were working in other corporate jobs.
Thousands of such call centers are operated in India. That dupe westerners to pay them their hard earned money and savings.
Here is a short excerpt from the confessions of a call center scammer named 'Piyush', as revealed by BBC, and secretly recorded by an activist.
"We used to target the old people," he says.
"There are many old people in the US who don't have families, are alone and are disabled, so it's very easy to trick them."
Piyush tells me how once he forced a woman to hand over her last $100, just so he could meet a target. For her, on the other side of the world, it was Christmas. "I took that $100 and she cried a lot while making the payment. Yeah, this was the worst call I ever had," he says.
It is heart wrenching. I know. And this is just one instance I have quoted out of thousands that happen every other day.
Most of the English speaking countries are targeted with such scams and majority of them are executed from India.
Though a lot of measures are being taken by the Indian government like making special cells and raid teams and also collaborating with various foreign agencies to deal with these fraudsters.
But given the high levels of corruption prevalent in the Indian system. It is not really difficult to operate such illegal entities by bribing the cops if you can keep your identities private.
Only if your dirty tricks come into limelight publicly or you get on the radar of an honest police officer or raid teams, there is a problem.
How Do They Do It
Here I have come up with some popular scams that you must be aware of to save yourself some financial pain in future.
What I am presenting you is an overview of various different ways these call centers can con you, or may be already had at some point.
This doesn't mean that these are the only ways. New methods are invented and older ones are tweaked for better efficiency and to keep the money flowing. But you'll get an idea about how things work. And how they trigger your fears to wash your wallets.
THE MICROSOFT TECH-SUPPORT
This has been prevalent form really long and is still actively used.
A pop up is sent to to your computer reading that your PC is infected with a virus and your data is at risk including your credit cards information and passwords. And it also shows you a fake toll free number of Microsoft Tech Support that you can call to resolve the issue.
If you'll make a call the person on the other end will present himself as a genius Microsoft technician. And he will provide you with all the relevant minute details to make you believe him. Like his technical level, his employee id for future assistance and he might even show you a real support technician profile at Microsoft website calming it to be him.
Going further he would guide you step by step to take remote access of your computer using some online software like TeamViewer and will end up charging you to fix something that was never really broken.
This scam also has some other variants like Apple and MacAfee tech support.
You can imagine what else can be possible after they have the control of your machine. They might install malwares or delete your files and ask you to pay to recover them. Sometimes they install their custom software that remain hidden and will give them the access of your computer as soon as you will switch it on. And if they find you panicking too much throughout the process they might even sell you subscription of some non existent service asserting that it will protect you from all such mis-happenings in future.
THE DRUG CARTEL / UNPAID TAXES
You may receive a call from someone impersonating to be a member of Law Enforcement, DEA, US Marshal Service, FBI or anything else authoritative you can think of.
And he will tell you that your bank account details were found at a crime scene and were used to make illegal transactions to some drug cartels overseas. And that all your assets will be frozen but you can choose to get arrested and fight in court or you can choose an alternative dispute resolution right now to close this quick.
They may then ask you to buy crypto, or google/amazon gift cards with the money lying in your bank accounts and transfer them to a government safe wallet/account. Which is owned by the scammers obviously.
Also you may receive a call from someone faking to be an IRS officer. And he will tell you that you have a few thousand dollars of unpaid taxes. And if you won't pay them now they will freeze your bank account and confiscate your house. And if you will believe it without blinking an eye and panic, they might make you do a wire transfer in a local bank account of your country. Usually owned by a silent partner residing there.
THE FAKE REFUNDS
This one also has multiple iterations. For ex -
- Scammers may call you impersonating as IRS officers telling you that you have some thousands of dollars of tax refunds lying with them
- You may get a pop up from amazon (not really) or an email/text claiming that something (usually the latest iPhone) you have ordered couldn't be processed and you can claim your refund by calling at some toll free number
- Alternatively this is also used as a follow up to the tech-support scam I have stated before, where they tell you that the money you paid to avail Microsoft assistance will be refunded to you in full, you just need to follow a few more simple steps
Again at first they'll convince you and take remote access of your computer. Once you fall for that, they will ask you to login into your bank account to process the refund. After you'll login they will pretend to transfer money while changing the 'HTML code' of your current webpage. Which will temporarily inflate the numbers on that webpage. And they will then claim to have mistakenly transferred excess amount and then pressurize you to transfer it back immediately.
And in this way they try to deceive people sometimes twice in a row. If you happened to be smart enough to not give them your machine's access. They will ask for a small upfront fee like $20-$30 as charges to skip the process and initiate instant refund. Only to disconnect the call after you send them the money.
Pay Day Loans
You may receive a call offering you a pay day loan at super low interest rates from a reputed financial company. And they will lure you to send them some minimal upfront amount, either to verify your bank account, as a small advance commission to process your loan or to prove that you are capable of paying back your debts.
Scammers will claim to be the officials of your internet service provider or telecom operator. And will ask you to pay a service charge to avoid disconnection, or will try to sell you integrated internet plans meant for special customers at huge discounts. Only to milk some money and disappear.
So this was about awareness and protecting ourselves. It is important to educate people about trends in the ever growing scam industry. With the economic growth being all time low and unemployment being all time high. Such frauds are on a significant rise. I hope this will help in saving someone from falling into this trap.
What may be just a few hundred dollars for some of us, might be all someone may have. And worse if he is a senior citizen in his old age who can't work or maybe can't even walk a couple of miles.
Confessions of a Call-Centre Scammer