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NCR fake call centres case: Young, glib workers used to dupe clients

Most of those arrested from the fake call centres in Gurugram have pleaded innocence, claiming they thought they were actually working for authorised technical support companies. The police said they were recording their statements.

gurgaon Updated: Dec 03, 2018 13:27 IST
Leena Dhankhar
Leena Dhankhar
Hindustan Times, Gurugram
fake call centres,NCR,fake call centres busted
According to police investigations, most of the workers arrested from the fake call centres in Gurugram were paid Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000 per month.(HT File /Representational Photo )

Most of those who have been arrested from 17 call centres, at the centre of a global cyber fraud in the name of IT giant Microsoft, are aged between 20 and 35 years with varying educational qualifications, investigators have said.

They said these call centre executives had come to work in the Delhi-NCR from several states, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi-NCR, and northeastern states such as Manipur. Most of those arrested have pleaded innocence, claiming they thought they were actually working for authorised technical support companies. The police said they were recording their statements.

At least 4,000 to 5,000 calls were made by each call centre daily to unsuspecting people, who were told that their systems had been infected and their personal and financial data and information could be compromised. Most of the workers were paid Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000 per month. Seniors were paid double this amount, depending on their education and soft skills. They were also paid commissions on the number of deals they managed to cut in a month.

Gurugram police suspect that most of these call centre workers and those who set up such facilities had earlier worked in the BPO industry. Investigators said they had experience and, therefore, managed to buy personal and financial information of people online. “Investigation is ongoing and we are questioning the workers to establish how the system worked and how people were duped,” said Shamsher Singh, ACP (Crime), Gurugram.

These illegal set-ups were spread across the city, operating out of premises as small as one room to as big as an entire a building. They were concentrated in Udyog Vihar, Sohna Road, Golf Course Road, Sector 18, Sector 10, Sushant Lok, and other sectors. “Earlier most of these were small operations and managed to remain below the police’s radar. But this time, they were involved in complex operations with global implications. Analysis of data recovered from their equipment will reveal the extent of their operations,” said ACP Singh.

The call centre culture mushroomed in Gurugram in the early 2000s. It witnessed huge business margins until 2006 when the businesses went bust. “The city has emerged as one of the top BPO destinations. The scamsters could easily find skilled BPO workforce in Gurugram. These youngsters possess the required technical skills, good language proficiency and are ready to work for lower wages. Also, setting up a call centre here is easier,” said Singh.

Investigators said some of the workers arrested did not have a formal education but spoke English fluently and managed to dupe foreign nationals with their impeccable accent.

Cyber law expert Pavan Duggal said duping people online by directing them to scrupulous call centres is nothing new. “There is a lack of a dedicated framework. There is no enforcement to check the services offered by these call centres. The absence of a centralised regulator ensures that such illegal activities are not curbed once and for all,” said Duggal.

In fact, even after such scams are busted, the police find it difficult to get convictions in the court. The police are battling in courts to get even a single conviction done in the 6,500-odd cases registered ever since the cyber crime branch of the Gurugram police was formed in 2008.

Earlier in 2017, the Gurugram police had busted 38 call centres operating in different buildings in Udyog Vihar Phase 5, Sector 18, Sohna Road and Palam Vihar, which duped foreign nationals from United States of America, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom and others on the pretext of providing cheap loans, lotteries and tax benefits.

Police said the operators of these call centres bought personal and financial data on the dark web (a huge collection of content that doesn’t appear through regular internet browsing).

Most importantly, those working in the call centres busted last year were aware of the fact that they were conning the foreigners. The call centre owners also had no permission or legal document to operate in the city, which also enabled the police to prosecute them, the police said.

Vishal Gupta, counsel for one of the accused who has been granted bail, said, “We have the licence to run the company. We fulfill legal provisions mandated by the statutory authorities. Someone else was maligning our name. We are in touch with our customers and are ready to provide full legal assistance. We had alerted the local police much earlier.”

First Published: Dec 03, 2018 13:27 IST