With the help of US-based Aunt and Russian software, the West Delhi brothers duped 20,000 Americans, mostly senior citizens, in a $10 million scam.
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A one-room call centre, a handful of employees who could pull off an American accent, a carefully drafted script, a database, and a Russian software programme — these are some of the tools that two West Delhi-based garment shop owners allegedly used to scam 20,000 US and Canadian citizens out of more than US$10 million (Rs 80 crore) under the guise of “tech support” services.
Business seemed to have boomed for at least 10 years, until the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Canadian law enforcement authorities, and Delhi Police cracked down on the suspects last December.
According to police sources, this is how the scam worked: the Delhi men used a software programme to generate “pop-up windows” that would appear on the computer screens of their targets, mostly senior citizens.
These pop-ups would warn the targets about “fraudulent activity” on their systems and instruct them to contact a number provided on the screen to get the issue fixed.
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When the North American victims called the number, they were connected to a call centre in West Delhi where the young employees, armed with their well-rehearsed script, would convince them to pay a certain amount to get the glitch fixed. Many of the anxious elderly targets agreed to pay, at times even more than once.
The accused, police say, had been operating since 2012, but had ramped up operations after the Covid-19 pandemic struck and more people started working from home. As the tech support scam picked up pace, the alleged fraudsters expanded their team, even stationing a ‘representative’ in Canada.
The FBI in the USA eventually busted the operation four months ago and traced the crime back to Delhi.
“As soon as the FBI approached us and informed us about these call centres running in Delhi and how more than 20,000 victims had fallen prey, we instantly put our teams on the job,” said H.S. Dhaliwal, special commissioner of police (special cell), speaking to ThePrint. “These fraudsters preyed on the fears of elderly people.”
Dhaliwal said the FBI shared complaints from two specific victims of the fraud with the Delhi Police through the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), along with some intelligence about the suspects.
A counterfeit $1 million note was sold for a whopping PKR 100 million to a trader in cash-strapped Pakistan’s Muzaffargarh district.