The Noida police Friday arrested 126 people from a fake call centre here for allegedly being involved in extorting money from US citizens after threatening them with arrest for having discrepancies in their social security number, a senior official said.
In a late Thursday night raid at the call centre in Noida, Sector 63, operators and callers, including women, were arrested and police seized several computer systems and cash worth over Rs 20 lakh, the official said.
This is the biggest raid so far by the district police.
Gautam Buddh Nagar Superintendent of Police Ajay Pal Sharma said a total of 126 people were arrested, 312 computer systems seized and cash worth over Rs 20 lakh recovered from the scene.
"The workers at the fake call centre would call up US citizens and intimidate them saying there were problems with their social security number, a nine-digit identification number issued to US citizens, and tell them to pay penalty to get it fixed or face arrest," Sharma said.
He said the callers would pose as Social Security Department officials and tell US citizens that their social security pin has got “stolen” and they needed to follow “some legal procedures and pay penalty money” to get the issue resolved.
“These callers of the call centre would first drop a voice message detailing the issue on the voice mailbox number of their targets and leave a message asking them to call back. There were many who doubted it, but some would call back and fall in the trap,” Sharma said.
“When the gullible people called back, these callers would solicit money saying they were being penalised and if they do not pay the penalty the federal investigators may prosecute them or arrest them,” the SSP said.
He said the callers would ask for up to $3,500 and transfer it through target purchasing of "playstore cards" in the US which the call centre owners would get encashed with the help of their aides in America, Dubai and China.
This money was then transferred through bank accounts, investigation on which is on, Sharma, who led the operation, said.
"The call centre would make $50,000 every night on an average by duping gullible Americans," Sharma said, adding the money they have extorted runs into crores of rupees.
The call centre owners have been operating the centre from different places in the National Capital Region for last three years, he said, adding they would keep it shutting and restarting every now and then to avoid detection.
The call centre would function from 7 pm to 5 am, Sharma said.
"An initial probe has revealed that they had partners in the US, Dubai and China where these "playstore cards" would be encashed. The 126 arrested included three key persons who were running the Noida call centre but the mastermind is someone else and we are probing the case to reach them," SSP the SSP said.
They also used Truecaller, a global mobile app, to find the names of the people they would call up and address them by their full names, saying they are from the Social Security Department, leaving little chance for the panic-stricken people to doubt the credentials of the callers, speaking in English with an American accent.
A case has been registered against the arrested persons at the Phase 3 police station under Indian Penal Code sections 308 (extortion), 420 (cheating) and under various relevant sections of the Information Technology Act.
Over the past few months, about a dozen fake call centres have been busted in Noida and scores of people arrested for duping foreigners, including Americans and Canadians, officials said.
This was the biggest raid by the Noida police so far, in which they arrested largest number of call centre employees duping the US nationals, though the Special Task Force (STF) had arrested 151 people from three call centres for cyber fraud around two years ago.