Posted On April 11th, 2013
AHMEDABAD: US citizens are being extorted by some shady call centres of the city. Hard as it may seem to believe, this startling fact has emerged out of investigations into an incident where three city police officials were accused of extortion by a call centre official. The matter came to light when a call centre owner blamed a team of police officers for extorting money from him. The call centre owner claimed that a sum of Rs 14 lakh was snatched by the cops from his drawer at that time.
While two of the cops accused in this extortion racket went missing, the city cops stumbled upon this call centre scam. Unscrupulous owners of some of these call centres used to gain access to loan defaulters' data from the US and then these executives called up the defaulters posing as loan recovery officials representing various banks of the US. During investigation of this case, cops verified that there are 100 small and medium sized call centres in the city which employ close to 8000 youths. Of these, 10 to 12 are centres that are involved in duping bank loan defaulters in the US.
'Often they succeeded in duping US citizens by threatening them and then offering to cut their loan amounts. Once the defaulters deposited the money into a bank in US, the money would be withdrawn and then sent through hawala routes to Ahmedabad's call centres. These call centres do not have any kind of authorization from the US banks. It is fraudulent but until a complaint is registered in this matter, we cannot do much,' said a senior city police official.
The fake bank recovery agent often lured in the defaulters by offering a settlement sum that was significantly lower than the loan amount. When the defaulter agreed to pay the money, it would be put in a bank account in the US. A rough estimate drawn up by police says that each day, Rs 1 to 1.5 crore flowed into the city through hawala channels. 'Piyush, a resident of Bhavnagar, supplies data to these call centres at a rate of 2 to 5 dollars for each individual's details ' social security number, work number, number of family members and loan amount. The call centre executives then use these details to first scare the defaulter and then convince him to pay up. For their part, the havala operators take 2 per cent of the collected amount as their fee,' said a city police official.
How they dupe
The bogus callers posing as US bank recovery agents are of two types ' the first call is made by an executive called an opener and the other is closer. The opener just leaves a voice mail which has enough details to concern and scare the defaulter. The closer does all the convincing with his glib talk. They are also armed with relevant sections of the US law under which the bank loan defaulters can be booked. The two callers are paid 1 % of the total amount of settlement secured every month. 'This means a hefty extra income enabling a high flying lifestyle like moving around in expensive sedans and sporting costly clothes. Even the illegal tag does not deter youth from taking up jobs at such shady call centres because the salary they offer is three to four times more than their conventional counterparts and the only qualification that they need is a good knowledge of the English language,' said police sources.
Cops missing in call centre extortion case
After the fiasco and accusations at the Nehrunagar call centre, ACP V D Gohil was transferred from M division to city control room on Wednesday. The unofficial police raiding team which had gone to the call centre have gone missing. Police sub inspector posted in Anandnagar, A AJadeja and Satellite PSI, P K Goswami have not joined work and neither have they sent any sick report, said a senior city police official.
The call centre owner, Sunil Nagrani has filed a complaint against them. He said that at 11 pm, the two PSIs along with some other plainclothesmen came to his call centre and threatened to expose him for running an illegal call centre. They also threatened to seize his computers as evidence. And then they suggested that if Nagrani wanted to avoid trouble, he should pay them Rs 50 lakh. They then forcibly took Rs 14 lakh from his drawer and left. 'We have intimated the I-T department about this large sum of money which was allegedly taken as extortion from the call centre in Nehrunagar. We are probing the matter now on the accusations against the policemen,' said a Satellite police station official who is probing the case.