The taxman from Thane: Call centres near Mumbai made $150,000 a day blackmailing Americans

Image: Reuters/Sherwin Crasto SC
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Over the last year, a bunch of call centres in the western Indian state of Maharashtra has allegedly been duping US citizens by pretending to be the taxman.

On Oct. 05, the police in Thane, near India’s financial capital Mumbai, filed a case against more than 750 workers of nine call centers who made phone calls, blackmailing American citizens.

The callers would impersonate US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials and threaten tax investigations unless the Americans paid up between $500 and $60,000 (Rs33,000 and Rs40 lakh) to settle the case, Thane police commissioner Param Bir Singh told The Indian Express newspaper.

“The (call center) employees would begin the conversation (by) telling the listener the badge number and name of the IRS official. They would threaten the Americans saying if they didn’t pay up, the police would raid their home in the next half hour,” Singh said. “The accused had spoofed the toll number of IRS. So when the victim received a call, ‘Internal Revenue Services’ would flash on their phone.”

The nine call centers were making over $150,000 (Rs1 crore) per day, the BBC reported.

The police have identified eight main accused, aged between 19 and 34. The owner of one of these call centres reportedly worked in the US earlier and stole information that was eventually misused by the nine companies. The Thane police will soon contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation to ask for help in the investigation.

Over the last three years, the US tax administration has received over 1.7 million complaints against fake IRS agents. Over 8,800 people have paid up more than $47 million to such cons, the US tax administration has said.

But this may be the first “American taxman” from faraway Thane.