The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has unsealed an indictment charging 61 individuals and entities for their alleged involvement in an Indian call center scam that victimized tens of thousands of people in the United States, resulting in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a DOJ press release.
The DOJ – the primary federal criminal investigation and enforcement agency – arrested 20 individuals in the United States and charged 32 individuals and five call centers in India for their alleged involvement in the scam. An additional U.S.-based defendant is currently in the custody of immigration authorities.
The DOJ indictment alleges the defendants were involved in a sophisticated scheme organized in India that included a network of call centers in Ahmedabad and charges them with conspiracy to commit identity theft, false personation of an officer of the United States, wire fraud, and money laundering.
Using information obtained from data brokers and other sources, the DOJ indictment claims the call center operators allegedly called potential victims while impersonating officials from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
According to the DOJ indictment, call center operators threatened potential victims with arrest, prison, fines, or deportation if they did not pay taxes or penalties to the government. If the victims agreed to pay, the call centers turned to a network of U.S.-based co-conspirators to liquidate and launder extorted funds.
The defendants allegedly used prepaid debit cards often registered using personal identifying information (PII) of thousands of identity theft victims and wire transfers directed by the criminal associates using fake names and fraudulent identifications to launder extorted funds, according to the DOJ indictment.
The co-conspirators allegedly used “hawala” – where money is transferred internationally outside of the formal banking system – to direct the extorted funds to accounts belonging to U.S. individuals. These individuals were expecting the hawala transfers but were not aware of the illicit nature of the funds.
The indictment also alleges that the defendants extorted $12,300 from an 85-year-old victim in San Diego, California, and $136,000 from another victim in Hayward, California, while fraudulently pretending to be IRS agents and demanding payment for fictitious tax violations.
“This is a transnational problem and demonstrates that modern criminals target Americans both from inside our borders and from abroad,” Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said about the India call center scam in the DOJ press release.
A special DOJ website has been established to provide information about the case to identified victims, potential victims, and the public. Anyone who may be a victim of fraud or identity theft related to this investigation or other scam phone calls may contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at this website.
The complete DOJ press release ‘Dozens of Individuals Indicted in Multimillion-Dollar Indian Call Center Scam Targeting U.S. Victims’ is available online www.justice.gov/opa/pr/dozens-individuals-indicted-multimillion-dollar-indian-call-center-scam-targeting-us-victims.
NOTE: An indictment is merely an allegation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
DOJ CASE SHOWS DANGERS OF OFFSHORING PII OUTSIDE OF U.S.
Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global background check firm – offers a complimentary whitepaper by ESR founder and CEO Attorney Lester Rosen entitled “The Dangers of Offshoring Personally Identifiable Information (PII) Outside of United States.”
The whitepaper, which reveals problems associated with the sending personal information of consumers used in background checks outside of the country for processing and beyond the reach of U.S. privacy and identity theft laws www.esrcheck.com/Whitepapers/Dangers-of-Offshoring-PII/.
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