The U.S. Department of Justice has filed lawsuits against two small telecommunications providers that have allegedly connected hundreds of millions of fraudulent robocalls from Indian call centers to U.S. residents.
The feds want a New York federal judge to cut off the companies' access to the U.S. telephone network. The government says a judge has already issued a restraining order against one of the defendants, according to an Arstechnica.com report.
The Justice Department says two U.S. companies contributed significantly to the problem of conducting robocalls.
Over a 23-day period in May and June of last year, for example, defendant TollFreeDeals connected 720 million calls to U.S. numbers. According to the Justice Department, 425 million of the calls lasted for one second or less—suggesting that many were unwanted, the report said.
During those two months, TollFreeDeals connected 182 million calls from a single India-based call center. Of these calls, more than 90 percent appeared to come from one of 1,000 source numbers. And of those numbers, more than 80 percent have been associated with fraudulent robocalls, it added.
The two U.S. companies sued by the Justice Department served as VOIP-based gateways between foreign call centers and the U.S. telephone network. They were tiny operations; according to the government, each company did business from the home of its owner, the arstechnica.com report said.
The companies' overseas clients engaged in a number of scams that might sound familiar to anyone who owns a phone in the U.S.
In one popular scam, fraudsters pretend to work for the Social Security Administration and inform victims that their Social Security number has been "suspended."
Other scam callers impersonated the IRS, Microsoft, or other large American organizations. In all cases, the suggested remedy was the same: send the scammers money to help clear up the problem, the report said.
The DoJ says that the providers turned a blind eye to rampant criminal activity occurring on their networks. Over a period of years, the companies received numerous warnings from other telecom providers that their services were being used for fraud. Federal officials say they did as little as they could to stop the activity while the scammers continued to operate, the publication added.
In related news, the United States Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Georgia Jan. 27 announced that eight defendants have been sentenced for their roles in an India-based call center fraud scheme.
The scheme victimized thousands in the United States resulting in over $3.7 million in losses, with the sentences ranging from six months to four years and nine months in prison, the news release said.
According to U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak, the defendants were involved in a sophisticated scheme organized by co-conspirators in India, including a network of call centers in Ahmedabad, India. Using information obtained from data brokers and other sources, call center operators called potential victims while impersonating officials from the Internal Revenue Service or individuals offering fictitious payday loans, the release said.
The call center operators would then threaten potential victims with arrest, imprisonment, or fines if they did not pay taxes or penalties to the government. If the victims agreed to pay, the call centers would immediately turn to a network of U.S.-based co-conspirators to liquidate and launder the extorted funds by purchasing prepaid debit cards or through wire transfers, including through MoneyGram and Western Union, to the attention of fictitious names and U.S.-based defendants and their co-conspirators, it said.
The eight defendants sentenced were Mohamed Kazim Momin, Rodrigo Leon-Castillo, Mohmed Sozab Momin, Drue Kyle Riggins, Nicholas Alexander Deane, Palak Kumar Patel, Jantz Parrish Miller and Devin Bradford Pope.
These eight defendants were charged along with five Indian call centers and seven Indian nationals in a 27-count indictment with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The government is seeking extradition of the Indian nationals.