Police raid Indian call centres linked to ‘CRA phone scam’ that have victimized Canadians

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Oct. 31, 2018 (courtesy of CBC.ca)  – Over the past two weeks, Indian police have been bursting into suspected illegal call centres, arresting everyone in sight and seizing troves of equipment used to carry out phone fraud aimed at foreigners. Hundreds of Canadians are among the victims of the so-called “CRA scam,” and their combined losses — from just two of the raided offices — are likely to be at least in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“This is just the beginning, says Chief Ajay Pal Sharma of the Noida Station. “More illegal call centres are running in the city, which will be busted soon. We will be conducting more raids.”

Police say they arrested 28 people in just one of their sweeps, including two seen as the kingpins of the operation. Most are in their twenties.

They are expected to face fraud-related charges, which could result in jail time.

The raids were triggered by a visit from Canadian police to Noida, a suburb of India’s capital New Delhi, following a CBC Marketplace investigation that revealed how and where many of the scammers were operating. An RCMP officer based in India, in cooperation with the FBI, approached Indian authorities to act.

It’s part of a message the Mounties are trying to send in India.

“We’re going to work jointly, collaboratively to take you down,” says Inspector Peter Payne, the federal force’s top cop on financial crime.

Dozens of scam centres are believed to still be active in multiple cities across India, each with independent managers and using their own technology to evade detection.

Indian security observers also believe at least some of the centres are operating with police approval, in a country where bribery is not an unusual way to circumvent investigative scrutiny.

In just one of the raided facilities, investigators located a spreadsheet containing details on more than 600 Canadian victims of the scheme. RCMP officers in Canada will now begin the task of contacting every one of them to determine how much was stolen from them, and whether there is any prospect of getting the money back.

“We’re going to try our best efforts to do it,” Insp. Payne told CBC News, “but I can’t make any guarantees.”

Indian police have also paraded those arrested in front of news cameras. They say it’s being done in part to show action against an industry that rarely faces prosecution, and also to send a message to the many centres that continue to operate.