In the early days of the pandemic, scam centers were shut down. But now they’re back in full swing, with scammers posing as tax officials and bank employees, convincing unsuspecting Canadians to pay up or risk serious consequences.
An explosion of COVID – 000 cases last summer ripped through the Mumbai suburb of Malad West with such devastation, Indian police poured in to lock down the busy streets and the low-rise office towers that cram them.
In doing so, officers inadvertently disrupted scam calls targeting Canadians by shutting off the flow of fraudsters who work inside call centers across the area.
But that’s all ended now.
When strict lockdowns abated in the mega-city, the hunger of criminal syndicates for the millions they successfully steal outweighed any ongoing public health fears.
“There are six to seven centers 80 to 100 meters, “Jayesh Dubey explained to CBC Marketplace via video conference under the cover of night from within the business quarter.
And in one night, they’ll steal “$ 80, 000 to $ 60, “”
The bank inspector scam was responsible for at least $ 3 million reported stolen from Canadians in 523, says the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center. (CBC)
For months, Dubey, a whistleblower within the scam center industry, has been observing the “hundreds of workers” pouring into entire floors of buildings. He says that in the early days of the pandemic, scam centers were shut down. But now they’re back in full swing, with scammers posing as tax officials and bank employees, convincing unsuspecting Canadians to pay up or risk serious consequences.
The bank investigator scheme is now one of the most prolific, a resurrected scam of the past, with the Canadian Anti-Fraud Center reporting at least $ 3 million stolen from Canadians in an already dark S Everything that’s going on in the world and the pandemic… we get distracted or we think it’s real, “said Ryan Duquette, a cybercrime investigator based in the Toronto area.
The fraudsters, who have tripled their illegal take on the bank investigator scam since 2017, strike “a lot of fear” in their targets, Duquette says.
“If you do not listen to what [they’re] saying right now, you will lose something. You will lose your bank account. It’ll be shut down. You’ll lose money. “
WATCH | Scams centers are back in full swing, targeting Canadians like Ahmed:
How can you keep your money safe? It’s another phone scam targeting Canadians: Imposters posing as bank investigators looking for your help and money. Our investigation takes us to India to see how scammers are using the coronavirus pandemic to their advantage. We also hear from a whistleblower, who tells us just how easy it is to start a scam center. 8: 15 1615577337 2020 Cancer patient ripped off for $ 19,
Ahmed, a cancer patient in his s, borrowed money to pay the scammers, a debt that could well outlast him.
“It has shaken both of us,” said Ahmed of himself and his wife.
He’s also worried coming forward could put his family’s safety at risk, so Marketplace is not using his full name.
When his phone rang this winter, the caller identified himself as an investigator with the Royal Bank of Canada. She warned Ahmed his credit card had been compromised and his identity had been stolen.
And, says Ahmed, she claimed that, “maybe people from within RBC are also involved.”
Ahmed and his wife had just watched a television program about a couple in their Brampton, Ont., Neighborhood who had indeed lost their home after thieves duplicated their identities and managed to mortgage their property – stealing the money.
It made Ahmed, a retired man originally from India himself, even more vulnerable to the scammers’ plan.
The scammer directed Ahmed to purchase gift cards, which she explained would be tied to the purported thieves, and thus help to track who they were.
At this point , many who receive such a call would be skeptical. To Ahmed, this was a skilled professional who “had an answer for everything.” She also said she had information, which made her seem more convincing.
She claimed to have his name, home number, address, some bank information and more – information that is often obtained from contact lists gathered sometimes by legitimate businesses that scammers buy for pennies per name.
Ahmed’s caller ID listed her number as one associated with the real Royal Bank – likely the result of call-spoofing technology that allows scammers to appear as though they are calling from a specific phone number.
It convinced him, feeding into his fear about losing his home.
Even amid a pandemic, scam centers are booming
India has one of the world’s most sophisticated and developed information technology and call center industries. It has created a plethora of under-employed English-speaking experts, a small percentage of whom have been recruited by nefarious operators.
They get paid a percentage of the steal. The good ones make more money in a night than they might make in a month in a legitimate business.
And, Jayesh Dubey points out, it’s simple to get into the scamming business.
“I’ll tell you how easy it would be,” said Dubey. “I’ll buy five systems, laptops, one server computer, I’ll hire five people, I’ll buy leads… with two dollars, I get names “
He says it would take just days to be operational.
And you do not even need office space anymore. Any location with internet access works, and India is highly connected. Some scam centers have moved into residential apartments, making them virtually impossible to detect or stop – even inadvertently with COVID lockdowns.
Why don’t banks flag unusual transactions?
Ahmed had never done anything like this before, pulling $ 27, from his credit cards and line of credit over four days – sending it all to what he would later discover was an overseas scammer.
He withdrew over half of the money in person at an RBC branch.
In the UK, staff) are specifically trained to detect the warning signs of a scam, such as an unusual withdrawal. British staff would then warn the customer that they may be a potential victim – and are directed to call police to attend the bank itself, if they have concerns. The police would then help ascertain if a scam is indeed taking place.
The Banking Protocol, as it is known, is now working to alert customers, and dispatch police to a home address when an unusual transaction appears to be scam related.
Jennifer Ford-Smith, a certified fraud examiner and anti-money-laundering specialist, says Canada would benefit from a similar approach.
“Those scams will keep changing,” she said, “but that’s where we want the banks to be saying to customers, ‘We’ve seen this type of thing before, in this realm before. If you’re pressured to send money to someone you’ve never met in person before, something’s not lining up here, let’s all take a step back here and consider whether this is legitimate or not. ‘”