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Morung Express News
Dimapur | September 24
Six people have been arrested by the Nagaland Police in connection to a call centre scam being operated from Dimapur. The Dimapur police told a media conference today that the arrests were the result of a raid at a suspected fictitious call centre at 6th Mile, Dimapur on August 16.
DCP (Zone I) Naieem Mustafa Mansury said that 20 people were detained in the August 16 raid and in the investigation that followed, the police stumbled upon a call centre scam that is suspected to be spread across the country.
The Dimapur police constituted a Special Investigation Team to probe the case.
The modus operandi was simple – the tried and tested formula of con artists employing telecommunications to fool unsuspecting people into parting with money.
In this case, the operators impersonated the USA’s tax enforcement agency – Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Mansury said that the operators would dial random numbers in the USA and blackmail the victims into parting with money. When the calls connected, the callers would identify themselves as IRS agents and inform of pending tax returns or charges of tax evasion. The victims or the people who bought the story were made to believe that they owed tax to the US government. Negotiation would ensue which often ended with the victims transferring money via online payment gateways in the guise of virtual gift cards, redeemed in cash by the scam operators.
The operators made an estimated Rs. 35 lakh using the place in 6th Mile as base. Mansury informed that the scam began operation in June till the raid by the police, while the groundwork to set it up started in March.
According to SIT head, Temsunochet Changkija, of the 20 people detained during the August 16 raid, 16 were local youths, who were recruited as “callers” by the main operators. The main operators, currently in judicial custody, were identified as Amit Bhoumick, Michael Tenzin, Shouvik Bhuiyan and 45 year-old local, Bernard Angami. The former three are all in their mid-20s and are said to have IT backgrounds.
Bernard, as per the SIT, acted as the local contact providing the logistics in employing English proficient unemployed local youths on monthly wages. Changkija said that the 16 youths (name withheld), who are currently out on bail, made the calls. He added that 6 were women.
Asked whether they were aware of the illicit nature of the job, Changkija, while citing findings of the investigation, said that they were likely made to believe that it was a legitimate call centre and it was routine for the IRS to outsource its work. “They were trained to read out readymade scripts putting on American accents,” he said.
On this, DCP (Zone II) Vishal issued advisory to the public, especially young graduates, to be wary of such scams. “The police would like to appeal the youths to make it a point to check the background of firms offering jobs,” he said.
As per the SIT, advertisements looking for “call centre executives” were published early this year in local dailies. He linked the source of the advertisements to the operators of the scam.
“During the course of the investigation, it was found that the ‘bosses’ were stationed in Kolkata,” Changkija added. The SIT, in coordination with the West Bengal Police, arrested two more in Kolkata on September 15. The two, identified as Ajit Kumar Ray (37) and Anirban Gupta (37), were brought to Dimapur on September 23.
The SIT did not rule out the involvement of more people in other cities of the country. Changkija said that others with links to the accused in custody “are also believed to exist (operate) in Ahmedabad.”