NOIDA: Noida Police have dismantled a sprawling cyber fraud operation that exploited leaked American social security numbers. The operation, centered in a building in Sector 6, was orchestrated by a group of tech-savvy fraudsters who used sophisticated techniques to trick US citizens into divulging sensitive personal information. The operation came to an end on Wednesday evening when police, acting on a tip-off, conducted a raid resulting in the arrest of 84 individuals involved in one of the largest cyber con schemes seen in the National Capital Region (NCR).
Impersonation Tactics and Baiting Targets
The cyber fraud operation was characterized by its meticulous planning and skillful execution. The perpetrators, most of whom were young and adept at managing business process outsourcing (BPO) operations, managed to emulate personnel from the US Social Security Administration. By training their accents to sound authentically American, they effectively played the role of officials responsible for informing victims about the alleged leak of their personal data. The scam involved making hundreds of calls daily to US citizens.
A Calculated Deception
Operating under the radar for four months, the fraudulent enterprise raked in a staggering revenue of Rs 40 lakh per day. The duo behind the operation, identified as Harshit Kumar and Yogesh Pandit, who goes by the alias Anna, remain at large. The call center employees, consisting of 84 individuals, were reportedly aware of the fraudulent activities, but their high financial incentives kept them from either reporting the matter to the authorities or leaving their positions.
Elaborate Modus Operandi
The cyber criminals employed a well-organized modus operandi to extract sensitive information from their victims. Using software such as VICIdial and eyeBeam, the fraudsters initiated voice messages to inform recipients of their supposedly compromised social security numbers (SSNs). Victims were then instructed to call back on a designated number. Once the victims returned the call, the scammers would feign access to their case files and proceed to gather details such as names and zip codes.
Earning Trust and Betrayal
The criminal operation exploited fear and panic, using tactics like fabricating suspension orders against the victims’ SSNs due to alleged “suspicious activity.” In many instances, victims were coerced into sharing the last four digits of their SSNs. This information was then used to concoct elaborate tales of involvement in criminal activities such as drug trafficking, money laundering, and vehicle-related fraud. The frightened victims, seeking to safeguard themselves, willingly participated in filing cases of identity theft.
A Web of Deceit Unraveled
As the call progressed, victims were transferred to another individual posing as a US Marshals officer. This new character instructed victims to convert their assets into cryptocurrency or gift cards to avoid supposed account seizures. Taking advantage of the situation, the fraudsters would share a code with the victims, which was used to siphon off their money to the criminals’ accounts. Alternatively, victims who purchased gift cards unknowingly handed over access to their funds when providing the secret number on the cards.
Legal Consequences and Ongoing Investigations
The call center staff involved in the operation have been charged under sections 420 (cheating) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, along with relevant sections of the IT Act. The police’s swift action led to the seizure of 150 computers, Rs 20 lakh in cash, a Creta vehicle, and several documents. Currently, forensic and cyber teams are conducting thorough examinations of the seized computers to gather evidence for further legal proceedings.
As law enforcement agencies continue to crack down on cyber fraud and scams, this latest operation serves as a reminder of the ever-evolving tactics employed by cyber criminals and the crucial role of vigilant policing in safeguarding individuals from falling victim to such sophisticated schemes.
- Sophisticated Operation: A large-scale cyber fraud operation in NCR targeted US citizens through deceptive phone calls, impersonating personnel from the US Social Security Administration.
- Stolen Social Security Numbers: The fraudsters possessed leaked American social security numbers from the dark web, using them to instill fear in targets.
- Accented Deception: The group of young individuals, skilled in mimicking American accents, exploited their accent-trained abilities to sound like genuine US citizens.
- Personal Data Leak Scare: Call center employees used the stolen data to inform victims about the apparent leakage of their personal information, especially their social security numbers.
- Psychological Manipulation: Targets were coerced into sharing more sensitive details, such as the last four digits of their social security numbers, by fabricating stories of criminal activity linked to their data.
- Substantial Success Rate: Despite skepticism, the operation managed to contact 4 lakh US citizens, successfully cheating more than 600 individuals.
- Masterminds at Large: The operation was orchestrated by Harshit Kumar and Yogesh Pandit, who remain at large despite the police raid.
- Complicit Employees: The call center was staffed by 84 employees, including 38 women, who were aware of the scam’s nature but continued due to high incentives.
- Lucrative Enterprise: The fraudulent operation yielded daily revenues of approximately Rs 40 lakh through manipulative tactics.
- Advanced Software Utilization: The call center employed software like VICIdial and eyeBeam to manage their deceptive calls efficiently.
- Multi-Stage Scam: The victims were manipulated to share banking details, then transferred to individuals impersonating US Marshals, who advised victims to convert their funds into cryptocurrency or gift cards.
- Financial Exploitation: Victims were provided codes to transfer funds to the fraudsters’ accounts or were tricked into providing gift card numbers, resulting in money loss.
- Legal Consequences: Call center employees were charged under IPC sections 420 (cheating) and 120B (criminal conspiracy), along with relevant IT Act sections.
- Seized Evidence: Police confiscated 150 computers, Rs 20 lakh in cash, a vehicle, and documents during the raid. Forensic and cyber teams are analyzing the evidence.
- Continued Vigilance: The incident underscores the ongoing threat of cyber fraud and emphasizes the importance of remaining vigilant against such sophisticated scams. Law enforcement is actively adapting to counter these criminal operations and bring culprits to justice.
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