Multimillion dollar telefraud ring busted in USA and India.
Good news! There are now 56 less chances for you to be scammed over the phone thanks to the bust of a major international telefraud ring. 24 fraudsters from the U.S. will be spending time in jail. Another 32 co-conspirators from five crooked companies in Ahmedabad, India were indicted in relation to the scheme as well. They await legal proceedings for their alleged involvement. According to the U.S. Justice Department, the scam affected over 50,000 individuals. All victims had their personal data abused in some way with at least 15,000 suffering “hundreds of millions” of dollars in losses.
From 2012-2016, vulnerable individuals were targeted through the phone scams. Many were senior citizens and immigrants. They were told a version a few pre-packaged lies by organized fraudsters. Some impersonated I.R.S. agents threatening arrest for tax violations. Others pretended to be immigration officials demanding money to avoid deportation. Regardless of the ploy, real people suffered. To name a few:
An elderly woman from California was conned out of over $12,000 by fake I.R.S. employees.
A man from Chicago, fearing deportation, forked over more than $5,000 to phony immigration officials.
The complex scheme involved first transferring funds through Indian call centers. Then, the ill-gotten cash was routed to ringleaders across eight U.S. states. 42-year-old Miteshkumar Patel, was the manager of the Chicago branch of the operation. He recruited, trained, and directed a crew of “runners.” These runners distributed the stolen money across reloadable store cards. Patel was also one of the direct contacts between the India-based conspirators. He laundered up to $25 million in the scam. For his actions, he has received one of the stiffest sentences—20 years imprisonment.
47-year-old Sunny Joshi of Texas is also facing major consequences for his role. He will be serving back to back 12-year and 10-year sentences. Additionally, he will lose his U.S. citizenship and naturalization certificate.
The 22 criminals sentenced on July 20, 2018 have also been ordered to collectively pay close to $9 million to victims. Additionally, money judgments and assets seized from them totaled over $72 million.
Inspector General J. Russell George said, “The sentences imposed on these defendants validate our efforts to bring to justice scammers who defraud taxpayers by impersonating employees of the Internal Revenue Service.”
Despite this major victory in the fight against telefraud, it is but a small dent. Several million robocallers continue to harass U.S. residents each month. Thus, people need to continue being on watch against fraud. Just last month, one man reported to The New York Times that he lost $8,000 from a fraudster who conned him into purchasing multiple Best Buy cards.
There are many ways that people can protect themselves against these schemes. One of the best ways is to remember that the I.R.S “does not call people and threaten legal action or harass them over debts.” So any call alleging an I.R.S tax violation or debt can be immediately flagged as a scam. An appropriate response would be to hang up. Even laughing at the fraudster could be fair, like 83-year-old Lee Meyer did. The retired schoolteacher laughed saying, “I wasn’t born yesterday” after an impostor tried to scam him for a “tax fraud charge.”
If you or someone you know feel they may have been victimized by an IRS scam, they can report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at www.tigta.gov or contact 1-800-366-4484. Individuals can report other telefraud scams can to the FTC at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.