A Mumbai call center was seized after an alleged $36 million scheme.
A Mumbai call center was seized after an alleged $36 million scheme.

MUMBAI (Diya TV) — An employee at a Maharashtra-based call center picks up the phone and begins the conversation along these lines: There is a lawsuit filed in your name regarding tax evasion or tax fraud.”

Thousands of Americans received calls similar to these from the Mumbai call center, and were threatened with a tax investigation by executives pretending to be American Internal Revenue Services or IRS officials.

In order to avoid further investigation of the alleged violations, unsuspecting Americans dished out between $500 and $60,000. The call centers have duped more than 6,500 Americans and estimates suggest the scam has raised more than $36 million.

On Tuesday, the daily routine was intercepted by authorities.

Some 200 policemen cut the phone lines. Nearly 800 workers were questioned throughout the night and 70 of them were finally arrested — among them the eight kingpins who came up with the “business model.” The rest were let off with a warning.

“They would call people and say that if they didn’t pay then the cops would come and raid their house in half an hour,” said Thane police chief Param Bir Singh.

Employees, some of whom were either barely graduated or still in school, would make calls from a database of numbers leaked from the U.S. and blackmail them. Their parents say they were tricked into believing they were doing legitimate work.

“My son has been working for a week. They told us they have to make recovery calls for credit card and debit card companies,” said one parent.

The owner of one of the companies, reportedly based in the US, allegedly stole information and passed it on. Investigators say one or two of every 100 call would hit the mark.

In raids that started Monday evening and continued till the early hours Tuesday, computer, laptops and other hardware were also seized.