Chitralekha Gujarati issue dated 31 October 2016

Fake Call Centers: When Cops Come Calling

The Thane Police last week did a commendable job when they raided bogus call centers operating in Thane area and booked 700 employees who were perpetrating a Rs 500-crore scam on unsuspecting American citizens.  In this cover story in the latest issue of Chitralekha, Devanshu Desai pieces together the jigsaw puzzle of a scam that operated in Thane as well as in Gujarat till the cops busted it. Words of praise are now pouring in from across the world for the Thane police for unearthing the telephone impersonation scam that involved bullying of American citizens to make them cough out money.

Incredible as it may sound, the whole scam involved threatening of American tax payers usually during tax filing season and making them pay up as much as Rs 1.5 crore on an average every day. The callers would impersonate as IRS officers who would intimidate the tax payers that if they did not pay up the money for cover up of their tax goof ups, there would be dire consequences.

Any crime would normally involve five, ten or fifteen accomplices, but the scale of this operation is mind boggling and its full extent is yet to be ascertained. It may have been operative for 3 years or even for a longer period. It will take a couple of months to know its full ramifications, but what is certain is the fact that the scam is too big and involves huge amount of money.

Initial details that kept filtering suggested that a young man was the kingpin of the massive operation. But it raised more questions than answered it: can a young man handle operations of such massive proportions? How would the money extorted be transferred to India? Why would Americans be so easily duped to cough out the demanded money?

However, as the information started surfacing, the case became both interesting and intriguing.  The senior cop of Thane Crime Unit accidentally learned about such bogus call centers from an acquaintance of his, who related as to how employees working in these call centers extort money from American tax payers. The cop probed little deeper and smelt a rat. So he widened his net by planting his men in plainclothes in the vicinity of the centers. These spies came back with stories of how employees of these centers bragged about threatening and successfully extorting money from the people called. This strengthened the cop’s suspicions about the call centers.

Once convinced about having a watertight case in hand, the cops snooped in on the building where these questionable centers were housed. They arrested 70 people, booked 700 employees and also confiscated a number of computers with hard-discs and other incriminating documents.

It has now transpired that one Shaggy alias Sagar Thaker is the mastermind behind this scam. Belonging to a not-so-rich family, Shaggy’s family had migrated to Ahmedabad where Sagar joined a call center and learned the tricks of the trade. Once armed with the necessary call center technology, he opened his first call center first in Bhavnagar and later in Ahmedabad and Mumbai. After his employees undergo necessary training, they would be asked to contact the Americans on the numbers provided.

A dialer would call up and when convinced that the called victim is frightened enough to pay up, the call would be transferred to a closure who as the designation suggests, would wrap up the case.

The modus operandi was simple and uncomplicated, and there was little margin for error. However, the investigators are dumbfounded by the sheer scale and networking of the operations, which cannot be run by a 24-year old man and his accomplices. It is strongly suspected that the scam has the backing and ‘blessings’ of a powerful politician based in Gujarat.

Meanwhile it is being learned that a call center owner named Jagdish Kanani who is believed to work hand in glove with Shaggy has been nabbed, while Sagar alias Shaggy is on the run. Jagdish had lent Shaggy the know-how and required money.

In a related story, Mahesh Shah throws light on the call center scenario in Ahmedabad and how it has been impacted by the scam that is under investigation.

The accompanying boxed piece carries a detailed interview with the Thane Police Commissioner, who promises more explosive developments in the case.

Where Books are Door-delivered to the Readers

Aarti gets a unique gift on her 24th birthday, which gave a new purpose and direction to her life. Her hubby Rohan gave her a library comprising 2400 books and voracious reader that she is, she along with her husband decided to spread knowledge by running a lending library for all, says Jwalant Chhaya.

In fact, their collective plan was to celebrate her birthday in such a way that it makes a difference not only for them, but for others as well.

Now Aarti has started a library in Morbi. Anyone interested in reading any book would either call her up or whats app his requisition and she would ensure that the desired book reaches the person within 24 hours. The couple would set out on scooter for delivery of the books.  Their future mission in life is to go to a tribal area and teach underprivileged children there.

What an innovative way to touch others’ lives.

Do the Stars Foretell a War?

Following the surgical strikes conducted by India across the LOC, an embarrassed and rattled Pakistan keeps issuing threats to start a war. In the midst of the rumblings of a distant war, Samir Paleja meets up a few astrologers to find out what the stars forecast on the war front.

While astrologers based in Mumbai conclude after studying the celestial constellations that there is no possibility of war between the two countries and there may even be peace between India and Pakistan, a Gujarat based soothsayer believes that the coming months could prove turbulent for India.

The article also carries a special future forecast for our Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The issue also carries Political & Humour columns, Palak, Cardiogram, Priyadarshini, novel’s fresh chapter, Health Helpline, Jalsaghar & Mukhwas

Ishita’s Elchi

If you are feeling sad about something, you are wrong somewhere, but if you are really experiencing complete joy, you are right..!!