Canadians have been conned into giving up their money in one of the largest cyber scams in the country’s history that has targeted nearly 60,000 people, who have lost over $10 million dollars (Rs 72,24,05,000) in five years. Turns out, some of the calls made by the conmen were tracked to a Mumbai neighbourhood.
After weeks of investigation, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) traced a few calls to an apartment building in Mumbai. However, when the CBC team confronted the scammers, a group of men that they thought were armed chased them through the locality. “They’re nothing but financial terrorists. It’s a huge operation, a big industry,” said Ritesh Bhatia, a top cybercrime investigator in India.
Further probing how the scammers operate and who they target, CBC explained in an article how the fraudsters target the most vulnerable sections in Canada – either the elderly or new immigrants.
The report stated that rob-dialers call Canadian numbers on a large scale and leave a message that asks the recipient to call back. When people call back, they are often threatened by someone posing as an agent of Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) – from which the name of the scam was derived.
There are various levels to this extortion. Callers are often asked to “clear their name” through swift payments and penalties that amount to thousands of dollars. Once they agree to pay this fine, they go through further stages of the scam. The victims often comply because they are worried that their immigrant status in the country keeps them from availing basic rights as a citizen of a country.
The report also found out that those carrying out the scam are usually in the 20s and are reputed in Mumbai’s call centres. With English language skills and knowledge of Western countries, these scamsters potentially earn a month’s salary in one night.
Once a hydra-headed operation, the scams have become small-scale and are carried out from small apartments after major raids leading to hundreds of arrests when Americans were being targeted. The US government had asked India to intervene and one of the few kingpins, Sagar Thakkar, was put behind bars.
After a senior police officer claimed that the Canadian government had not enlisted the local enforcement’s help in cracking the case, Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale put out a statement saying, “Mr Singh is not among the partners the RCMP works within India.”
— Ralph Goodale (@RalphGoodale) September 21, 2018