Conspiracy, wire fraud, and money laundering. It sounds like an HBO original, right? For the US Justice Department, it’s just another day of busting the bad guys.
The US Justice Department says it has broken up the nation’s first large-scale phone scam operation. The bust included the arrest and sentencing of 24 people and the indictment of 32 contractors in India including five call centers. These sentences represent “the culmination of the first-ever large-scale, multi-jurisdiction prosecution targeting the India call center scam industry,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.
Twenty-two defendants sentenced last week have been ordered to pay restitution of nearly $9 million to victims. Over four years, this scam cost over 15,000 victims hundreds of millions of dollars, and more than 50,000 people had their personal information misused.
Along with the fact that there are a lot fewer scammers on the line, they gave up quite a bit of information on how the whole scheme worked. The scammers received information about their victims from data brokers and other sources. Data brokers are websites such as whitepages.com that have your public information all in one place.
From there, the scammers impersonated the IRS and the US Citizenship and Immigration Services to scam people out of their hard-earned money. They asked their victims to pay various fines or fees with gift cards or by wiring the money to “runners” who used fake names and documents to receive the money.
Interestingly, it appears the defendants are of Indian origin living in the US and act as coordinators with the call centers in India. While they have been sentenced, the contractors in India have yet to be arraigned.
If you’re worried about getting scammed, here are a few things to remember when you get a suspicious call. Never provide personal information to an unknown caller. Be aware, and learn to recognize the signs of a scam when you see or hear one. Sign up for scam alerts from the FTC, or follow our blog for the latest tactics to track.
And if you didn’t know already, you can protect yourself by downloading PrivacyStar on iOS and Android. We work to verify known scammers so you can block them automatically.