By CCN Markets: A gang in India’s Madhya Pradesh state which scammed U.S. citizens hundreds of thousands of dollars through Bitcoin and other methods has been busted and its members arrested. The gang which ran its operations out of a call center is estimated to have made around $1.7 million.
According to the Business Standard, the gang consisted of 78 people who operated out of three call centers. The gang had reportedly obtained the social security numbers of around 100,000 U.S. citizens. They had also obtained cell phone numbers and other identifying information.
Per the police, the duties of most of those arrested involved contacting U.S. citizens posing as Social Security Administration employees. They would then tell their victims that their Social Security Number (SSN) was being used in suspicious activities. This included being used to smuggle narcotics and money laundering.
This is what a social security scam caller sounds like.BEWARE don’t ever push #1. pic.twitter.com/ABBmUF7MmE
— Harold David Hancock (@haroldh724) June 12, 2019
Send us bitcoin or else…
According to Superintendent of Police, Jitendra Singh, the callers would then demand payments of between $50 and $5,000. Victims would be threatened with arrests and their social security numbers getting blocked if they didn’t comply:
The tele callers, in chaste US accent, would tell them that for settling the issue they have to pay certain amount otherwise their social security number will be blocked and legal action initiated against them. This way they used to terrorize American citizens and make them pay amounts ranging from USD 50 to 5,000 through gift card, Bitcoin and other online modes.
During the raid on the call centers 70 cellphones, 60 computers, a server and other devices were seized. Members of the gang were aged between 18 and 32 years. This is not the first such Bitcoin scam operating out of an Indian call center as CCN has previously reported.
$17 million lost in social security number scam
The busting of the call center gang comes at a time when SSA-related scams in the U.S. are on the rise. Three months ago the Federal Trade Commission disclosed that over 63,000 reports regarding fake SSA calls had been filed with the government body since January 2018. About 3 percent of those who received the fake SSA calls, around 1890, lost money to the scammers.
The total money lost in the scam during that period was $16.6 million with the median loss being $1,484. The FTC did not indicate what percentage was paid in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
By June BRProud reported a figure of $19 million compared to $17 million lost in Internal Revenue Service scams.
The modus operandi of the Madhya Pradesh call center scammers resembles what the FTC detailed in a previous scam alert.
— FTC (@FTC) January 29, 2019
Then, the FTC noted that the scammers claimed that a victim’s SSN had been suspended ‘because of suspicious activity’. Additionally, the FTC also warned that scammers also claimed that it had been ‘involved in a crime’.