Police in India have arrested 32 people who allegedly posed as Canadian officials in a call centre phone fraud scheme targeting Canadians.
In a press release issued Sunday, Delhi police said they had arrested 32 “white-collar criminals” and seized 55 computers along with dozens of cellphones, internet routers and “illegal software” being used in what they described as a “swanky international cheating scam call centre targeting Canada citizens.”
All of those arrested are residents of India and between the ages of 18 and 38, according to the statement.
The Delhi police alleged the scheme has been targeting Canadian citizens by claiming their social insurance numbers had been compromised.
Canadian police, as well as the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, have for months warned about escalations and evolutions of telephone scams that have targeted Canadians for years through a range of methods, including posing as officials from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) as well as other federal departments.
These calls, many of which authorities have said originate abroad, typically claim the target has violated some rule, such as not paying proper taxes, and is liable to prosecution if they do not immediately hand over personal information or a wire transfer for the claimed offending amount.
“These calls come in waves, and we are seeing one of those spikes more recently,” says Jeff Thomson, a senior RCMP intelligence analyst working for the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, in an interview with Global News earlier this month.
Thomson has been raising the alarm about an increase in what are known as “spoofed” calls in which scammers have been able to use software to make their call appear as if it is coming from a legitimate government department of business.
The problem has prompted the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to order telecom companies to upgrade their systems by next month in an attempt to mitigate the impact of these spoofed calls.
But it is one that experts have stressed is highly complex and challenging to fully address.
The RCMP have previously said they are working with Indian authorities to try to crack down on call centres originating in that country and last year said a total of 19 call centres had been dismantled for involvement in CRA-type schemes.
But the force also said the scam had so far cost roughly 4,000 victims about $15.2 million.
Delhi police noted the involvement of Canadian police in probing the broader matter but did not specify to what extent authorities may have co-operated in the investigation apart from noting that some information had been shared and “sources were deployed.”
In response to an inquiry from Global News, a spokesperson for the RCMP said that although they continue to work on the issue of such call centres, they were not actually involved in this case.
“While the RCMP continues to work with domestic and international partners on fraudulent call centres, we were not directly involved in these particular arrests,” said spokesperson Sgt. Penny Hermann.
“We welcome any disruption and take-down of illegal call centres that are victimizing Canadians. It assists us all by providing public awareness and the resulting prevention of this harmful and pervasive scam.”