Inside Mumbai’s multi-crore fake call centres: Free housing, drugs, alcohol
Mumbai city news: This is an account based on conversations HT had with a man who knew the masterminds when they first set up operationmumbai Updated: Jun 10, 2017 22:44 IST
This is an account of how Shaggy and his friends ran the call centre scam, based on conversations HT had with a man who knew the masterminds when they first set up operation. The man spoke on condition that his identity would not be revealed.
The fraudsters would not employ more than 70 people at a time at a centre. Most were hired with a 20% salary hike after a telephone interview on recommendation by an existing employee.
Accommodation was free. Bachelors were put up three to a flat. Couples got separate flats. They worked Monday to Friday US hours, same as the Internal Revenue Service. Freshers got Rs25,000 plus incentives, which included Rs2 for every dollar extorted from US residents. Senior employees got Rs5. If an employee brought in more than $10,000, there was an additional spot incentive of Rs10,000. For the weekend, staffers got the alcohol or drug of their choice.
Owners tied up with vendors who supplied telephone records of US citizens. Each of these numbers was fed into a server which when initiated would send a voice message to individuals in the US stating: “A law suit has been filed against you by the IRS.” If there was no response for two hours, the server would send the message again. First human intervention would come when a citizen called back.
Openers and closers
New recruits, termed ‘openers’, took these calls and used a written script to intimidate and coerce. They would start by asking people their names and claim they owed IRS money and that their assets would be seized. If the caller took the bait, the call was transferred to a senior (6 months experience) termed the ‘closer’, whose job was to get the caller to deposit money in the fraudsters’ account. Team leaders monitored ‘openers’ and ‘closers’.
Getting the money
Scamsters used three ways. First was the traditional method of direct bank deposit; the ‘closer’ would claim the account belonged to the US government and get the victim to make a deposit. Another method was to get the money through iTunes gift cards and green prepaid cards. The ‘closers’ would take card numbers, expiry dates and pass them on to a middleman who took a 10% cut, and transferred the rest to the scamsters. In the third way, if a victim said they did not have enough money, ‘closers’ would ask them to sell their valuables at a pawn shop.
These ‘closers’ acted with such audacity that at times, after they got money, they would tease their victims. The man HT spoke to recalled a case where a man was duped of $150,000.
The owners kept main servers 10 to 15 km away from the main call centre to ensure that they got sufficient time to erase data if a police raid was conducted.