Canada’s ‘tax scam’ declines after raid on Mumbai call centre

A “tax scam” in Canada has declined sharply in the aftermath of a raid on a call centre in Mumbai last year, highlighting India’s link to such scams.

world Updated: Mar 02, 2017 21:44 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times, Toronto
Canada,tax scam,Mumbai call centre
Delta IT Park building at Mira Road in Mumbai, where the call centre linked to a tax scam in Canada and the US was located. More than 500 employees of the call centre were detained for allegedly cheating and robbing US citizens in October 2016.(HT Photo)

One of the biggest scams affecting Canadians in recent years has registered a sharp decline following a police raid on a call centre in Mumbai late last year, underlining the link between India and such activity.

Known as the tax scam, it involved persons impersonating agents of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA, the equivalent of India’s income tax department) and calling consumers and threatening “their targets with financial penalties, lawsuits, and even arrest if they don’t pay the back taxes they supposedly owe”, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

The con artists also posed as Internal Revenue Service agents while calling people in the United States.

While phone-based scams have bedevilled people in North America, there were indications a portion of those originated from rogue call centres in India.

The aftermath of the Mumbai raids, which led to nearly 70 employees there being charged with fraud and other crimes, is the clearest evidence of that link so far.

In a statement listing its Top 10 Scams of 2016, BBB said, “Our number one scam from last year has been in decline. A call centre in India was raided and the dreaded Canada Revenue Agency Tax Scam dropped off dramatically.”

Evan Kelly, a spokesperson for BBB in Canada, said there had been a steep “80% to 90% dropoff” in complaints regarding the scam. At its peak, those complaints numbered between 300 and 400 each week.

BBB in the US reported that “one in four” reports on its online tool, BBB Scam Tracker, were related to the tax scam.

However, not all the news related to scams has been positive. The amount that people were defrauded of in 2016 rose to more than $90 million, a nearly 50% increase over the previous year, some of it attributed to increased reporting.

Kelly said this reflected just a fraction of the quantum of scamming that occurred as the vast majority of incidents were not reported.

According to a December 2016 statement from the US arm of BBB, there were more than 7,500 reports of the tax scam, comprising a quarter of the total, close to the percentage cited for 2015.

Kelly said, “We get a lot of scams that are foreign-based, a lot are internet-based.” In fact, such activity has also started using social media.

Phone-based scams still remain the largest segment of this criminal industry, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Unfortunately, some of these scams could still be originating from Indian call centres.

First Published: Mar 02, 2017 12:56 IST