The BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) industry entered India in the 1980s when American Express set up its back-office operations in Gurgaon, now Gurugram. Since then, it has witnessed regular growth year on year.
The Indian Call Centre market, in 2017, was valued at a whopping USD 28.19 billion. There are various factors contributing to its exponential growth.
These include government schemes to promote the industry, growth in English and other multiple language-speaking populations, skilled professional to provide support in a multitude of business operations, low cost of employment with a high-quality workforce, specialized call centre outsourcing services, latest technologies, high-end infrastructure, Availability of a younger workforce, and Readiness to work in shifts.
India’s biggest and most renowned call centre players are Infosys BPO, Tata Consultancy Services BPO, WNS Global Services, Wipro BPO, Aegis Limited and a few others.
- “Call Centre Fraud in Bengaluru: 73 employees were paid in cash, ferried in ‘school buses’
- “Fake Call Centre Scamming US Nationals Busted In Mumbai; 3 Arrested”
- 20 Billion USD Call Centre Scam in Kolkata
- “US authorities charge 6 Indian call centres, directors in the alleged scam”
International Call Centre Scam Businesses in India
Along with the good, also comes the bad. With the Call Centre industry shining bright, there is a black shadow that follows it too.
There have been various cases over the years that have garnered media attention for defrauding a vast majority of people for money.
“Call Centre Fraud in Bengaluru: 73 employees were paid in cash, ferried in ‘school buses’
It was just recently in July 2022, when the newspapers screamed this headline. The Bengaluru police, acting on an anonymous tip, raided an office in the Whitefield tech area posing to be a legitimate call centre.
They seized everything including the transcripts that were being used to target and defraud American citizens and compromise their bank accounts. They were operating three different setups to facilitate money routing. To escape suspicion and to keep operating, the company would pay its employees in cash rather than a direct bank deposit.
What was the Scam?
The technique for the gang was a three-layered stack-up. Callers, bankers and closers. The callers would reach out to potential targets via text messages or voice mails stating they were noticing strange and possibly fraudulent activity on their bank or eCommerce accounts.
Any attempts by the targets to cross-check these calls would be routed to the second facility, which was the bankers. The bankers, posing either as bank executives or eCommerce executives, would engage the target to determine if he or she would fall prey to the scam. This was followed by the closers who would take over and the final money transaction would occur.
“Fake Call Centre Scamming US Nationals Busted In Mumbai; 3 Arrested”
Just a couple of months ago, in May 2022, the city of Mumbai was in the news for one more call centre scam. The Mumbai police, acting on a complaint, raided a business park in the Thane area and arrested three people. They were running a call centre with the intention of defrauding US citizens.
What was the Scam?
The trio that allegedly ran a call centre, posed as representatives of a reputed pharmaceutical company. They would call US citizens via Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and offer medicines, including Viagra, at concessional rates. Those who would fall to pray, would share their credit card details, make the payment and never receive any medicines. The trio has cheated many US citizens through this scam.
20 Billion USD Call Centre Scam in Kolkata
“Kolkata epicentre of USD 20 billion call centre scam? Video by YouTube sleuths goes viral” – read the newspaper headlines in early May 2022.
In a reverse fate, US YouTuber, Mark Rober, recently exposed a USD 20 billion call centre scam based in Kolkata, India.
What was the scam?
In a 26 minutes video, Mark Rober documented and exposed four call centres – 3 in Kolkata and 1 in Gurugram that have been engaging in activities designed to fraud foreign citizens. He alleged that around 60 million people around the world have been swindled out of approximately USD 20 billion by these call centres.
He collaborated with two other YouTube creators, Jim Browning and Trilogy Media and through careful planning and infiltration, they gathered audio and video evidence. They went on to demonstrate how these call centres carefully choose their victims (usually over the age of 65) and initiate contact impersonating government officials, eCommerce executives or even digital antivirus companies. They manipulate their targets into transferring money either through threats or false sales.
Rober has shared footage from the premises, real-time videos of people getting scammed and the names of the people at the helm of such fraudulent set-ups. His video got the attention of many and soon garnered 11 million views raising concern among the people regarding cybersecurity. The last known was that the evidence has been shared with the Kolkata police who are looking into the matter.
“US authorities charge 6 Indian call centres, directors in the alleged scam”
In early February of 2022, this headline caught the attention of many. As many as six India-based companies and their directors conspired with E Sampark, a company that provides internet telephone services, to forward scam calls to American citizens.
All six companies, their directors and the director of E Sampark have been charged with conspiracy and fraud with charges filed against them in an Atlanta court.
What was the Scam?
Posing as government officials for pension schemes, these callers issued threats to people indicating that their PAN numbers were used in a crime. Sometimes, they would even pose as income tax officials, telling people they owed back taxes to the government.
Gullible individuals would then be directed to pay money to a network of individuals who then, laundered the funds overseas. In yet another attempt, callers would offer loans and make people send payments as fees to get their bank information.
U.S. Attorney Kurt Erskine said in a statement, "Scam robocalls cause emotional and financial devastation to victims, particularly our vulnerable and elderly populations,". "These India-based call centres allegedly scared their victims and stole their money, including some victims' entire life savings." He further added.
How to Prevent Falling for International Call Centre Scams?
Where there are thriving call centre businesses, there are also scammers who prey on the elderly or the non-tech savvy. There are several steps that people can take to ensure that they don’t fall prey to such frauds. These include:
- Be wary of receiving unknown callers or unidentified numbers.
- Block unwanted calls and messages.
- Do not ever give out personal or financial information in response.
- Resist the pressure to act immediately to lure.
- Do not pay, especially to a request to pay in a specific way.
- Do not access unverified links.
India’s call centre industry is huge and growing exponentially. Liberal government laws are helping and fuelling the growth. But, along with the growth, the dark part of fraudulent practices also exists. With the help of the ever-evolving behemoth that is technology, fraudsters are continually coming up with innovative ways to scam and defraud people. What we can do is remain vigilant and have basic safeguards against such callers. Just remember – “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
How do spammers get my cell phone number?
Our phone numbers are present in many places over the internet like social media accounts, websites, and more. Spammers use processes like web harvesting or web scraping to extract our phone numbers from the web.
Can someone hack my phone by calling me?
A hacker cannot directly hack your phone by calling you. However, they can get access to your personal details by pretending to be someone else which can ultimately enable them to hack your accounts online.
How does a call centre scam work?
Most commonly, the scammers of a call centre scam target vulnerable people like the elderly or the ones not acquainted with the technology. Scammers try to extract personal details from such people by pretending to be some official authority. In this way, they tend to stir fear and steal money from people.