India’s sprawling customer service industry isn’t only there to help Americans with their legions of questions and complaints. Increasingly, it is designed to scam consumers.
According to a report by The New York Times highlighting the scams, a call center worker in India recently contacted Betsy Broder, who tracks international fraud at the Federal Trade Commission, and alerted her to a scam in which everyone in the call center impersonated Internal Revenue Service officials and demanded immediate payment to cover taxes that were never paid and owed. The call center worker said that, if the person seems scared or fell for the scam, they would tell them to purchase thousands of dollars in iTunes cards to prevent being thrown in jail. The victim would send the iTunes card codes to the scammers, which gave them access to the money.
NYT noted this scam is being tracked by the U.S. government and has been looked into since 2013. The paper noted that, since 2013, Americans — many of which are recent immigrants — have been scammed out of $100 million as a result. In the past, India wasn’t known for large-scale fraud, but that is changing. The country is now seen as a major player in cyberfraud, noted the report, citing Suhel Daud, an FBI agent who serves as assistant legal attaché at the embassy in New Delhi.
“They have figured all of this out,” Daud said. “Put all of these together, with the Indian demographics in the U.S., and it’s a natural segue. Whatever money you’re making, you can easily make 10 times as much.”
The report noted that several things have happened in India to make this possible, including an increase in the number of computer-savvy young Indians who speak English and are looking for work. What’s more, there is a huge call center culture in India, as well as efficient technology and ingenuity on the part of the citizens of India.