New York: Indian call centre workers impersonating US policemen, justice department officials and gruff debt collectors have been threatening law suits, instant arrests and public humiliation to bully Americans into parting with their hard-earned dollars.
“The police car was only 30 minutes away,” a caller told waitress Brenda Foster. “If she wanted to prevent her own arrest, she better cough up $300, ASAP,” he said. The Huffington Post reported that the 46-year-old waitress who lives with her husband in Portage, Indiana, was so badly rattled that she grabbed her husband’s debit card to “send the funds on the spot.”
The $300 went straight to fraudster Kirit Patel who has scammed Americans of $5.2 million in high-interest payday loans they had never taken out or had already paid off. Turns out, Patel outsourced his phony debt-collection calls to a call centre in India to harass US consumers into paying debts they don’t owe.
US authorities announced on Wednesday that Patel and his companies were now under investigation. According to the Federal Trade Commission, Patel’s companies Broadway Global Master and In-Arabia Solutions allegedly used call centers based in India to make more than 2.7 million phone calls to more than 6,00,000 phone numbers in America over a two-year period, threatening people with arrest and worse if they didn’t pay.
A federal court’s temporary restraining order names the two companies and their owner Patel who lives in California as defendants.
“They masqueraded as police officers and bombarded people with calls and threatened arrest and other dire consequences to extort payment for bogus debts,” said Sarah Schroeder, an attorney with the Federal Trade Commission’s San Francisco office, which filed the complaint.
The complaint said that on average, Americans targeted in the scam were bilked out of $500.
Diane Carson-Huff, 71-year old resident of Azus, in Los Angeles County received calls from India threatening her with jail, arrest and the loss of her home for unpaid payday loans. Since she had taken payday loans in the past, Carson-Huff got taken in by the scam twice, shelling out $1,236 and the second time for $1,780. Carson-Huff had just lost her husband and said she just didn’t have the stomach to deal with police arriving on her doorstep.
The Huffington Post reported Patel’s Indian call-center operators even went so far as to email her a letter on letterhead from the Department of Justice.
The good news is that both Foster and Carson-Huff got their money back after they filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission which plans to move ahead with court proceedings to seek the remaining refunds for duped Americans.
The Federal Trade Commission stopped a similar operation run by an Indian businessman also out of California in February. The calls were then traced to a call center in Hyderabad. The phony debt collection scam is a wake-up call for India’s tech services industry. India must purge shady call centers which are willing to pay fast and loose to make a quick buck by scamming Americans.
Sadly, it appears that some Indian call center workers have stooped to plain gundagardi on the phone. A call center worker bombarded an American woman with disturbing calls threatening the “agency” would take away her children if she didn’t settle her debts immediately.
“One of the callers even contacted my neighbours saying I had a bad loan and told me he was watching my house. The callers had a lot of personal information about me including my work address,” said the terror-stricken woman.