BHOPAL: Two fake call centres targeting US citizens have been busted in two major cities of Madhya Pradesh in just over three weeks.
On August 16, the state police busted a fake call centre whose operators allegedly duped US citizens by posing as officials of the US Social Security Administration and threatened to block the security number of the social security number cards.
Now, another fake call centre has been busted in state capital Bhopal by the cyber cell of Madhya Pradesh police. The call centre operators, posing as officials of US law enforcement agencies, targeted loan defaulters in the US and duped them in the name of settling their loans with threats of criminal prosecution and arrest.
Seven youths aged between 19 years and 29 years, four of them from Bhopal, Betul and Vidisha districts of MP and three from Ahmedabad in Gujarat, have been arrested by the cyber cell sleuths. The fake call centre was being run from a rented flat in Indrapuri, Bhopal.
The mastermind of the racket, 22-year-old Abhishek Pathak, a Class XII graduate, is from Ahmedabad, and his right-hand man, 29-year-old Rampal Singh, a BCA, is a resident of Bhopal. The duo had worked together at a call centre in Ahmedabad in the past, where they gained expertise in speaking to US citizens in an American accent.
Another Ahmadabad-based youth, Vatsal Dipeshbhai Gandhi (25), helped the fake call centre operators get the personal data of 12 lakh US citizens using contacts in Singapore and the US.
According to special DG (Cyber) of MP Police, Aruna Mohan Rao, investigations based on questioning of the arrested men has revealed that they, along with four call centre operators (who include Class X, XI and XII students), had duped 3,000 to 5,000 US citizens who were loan defaulters.
"Posing as officials of federal law enforcement agencies of the US, these cyber fraudsters sent fake notices and arrest warrants to the gullible US loan defaulters, who fell into their trap, and ultimately made them transfer money into accounts of other suspected cyber fraudsters in the US and elsewhere using the Bitcoin and Moneygram route," said Rao.
According to ADG (Cyber) Rajesh Gupta, the operators of the fake call centre first sent e-mail and text messages to US citizens, tracked out of the 12 lakh-strong personal data of American citizens. Once the loan defaulters in the US fell in their fear trap believing them to be officials of US law enforcement agencies, these cyber fraudsters used multiple e-mail accounts named after US agencies to send mails or else used internet telephony to dictate defaulters to settle their loans by making payments into specified accounts.
Whopping sums running into crores of rupees in Indian currency have been garnered by these cyber fraudsters from US citizens during the last one year since when the fake call centre was being operated in Bhopal. The massive sums have been routed to accounts of their cohorts in US and other countries, out of which their commission has been paid into the Indian accounts of these homegrown cyber fraudsters using Bitcoin and Moneygram platforms.
"So far we've managed to track around Rs 20 lakh which these youngsters attained as commission from their contacts abroad who too could be integral part of this international cyber fraud racket. Further investigations are likely to help us locate more such accounts in which further commission could have been parked," said ASP (Cyber Cell) Rajesh Bhadauria.
Ongoing probe has revealed that possibility of cybercriminals from African nations, particularly Nigeria and those from the Carribean nations also being part of this international racket.
The racket busted in Bhopal is much bigger than one busted in Indore last month, both in terms volume of US citizens' personal data as well as the number of US citizens duped, but the commonality in both rackets is the Gujarati link.
While the kingpin of the racket busted in Indore was a 25-year-old Ahmadabad resident Vatsal Mehta, his namesake 25-year-old Vatsal Dipeshbhai Gandhi was an integral part of the latest racket busted in Bhopal.