writes: Following the arrests earlier this month in India of call center employees posing as IRS or immigration agents, USA Today and Consumerist are reporting that the U.S. Department of Justice has charged 61 people in the U.S. and India of facilitating the scam, bilking millions from Americans thinking they were facing immediate arrest and prosecution. "According to the indictment (PDF) -- which covers 20 individuals in the U.S. and 32 people and five call centers in India -- since about 2012 the defendants used information obtained from data brokers and other sources to call potential victims impersonating officers from the IRS or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services," reports Consumerist.
The report adds: "To give the calls an air of authenticity, the organization was able to 'spoof' phone numbers, making the calls appear to have really come from a federal agency. The callers would then allegedly threaten potential victims with arrest, imprisonment, fines, or deportation if they did not pay supposed taxes or penalties to the government. In instances when the victims agreed to pay, the DOJ claims that the call centers would instruct them to go to banks or ATMs to withdraw money, use the funds to purchase prepaid stored value cards from retail stores, and then provide the unique serial number to the caller. At this point, the operations U.S.-based counterparts would use the serial numbers to transfer the funds to prepaid reloadable cards. The cards would then be used to purchase money orders that were transferred into U.S. bank accounts of individuals or businesses. To make matters worse, the indictment claims that the prepaid debit cards were often registered using personal information of thousands of identity theft victims, and the wire transfers were directed by the organizations using fake names and fraudulent identifications. The operation would then use 'hawalas' -- a system in which money is transferred internationally outside of the formal banking system -- to direct the pilfered funds to accounts belonging to U.S.-based individuals.