A mass police arrest in India has broken up an international fraud ring that conned Canadians into paying up to $100-million toward phony tax bills, according to the RCMP.
On Oct. 5, Indian authorities rounded up 70 people in Thane, India, suspected of running an expansive call-centre racket that perpetrated a notorious scam involving fake Internal Revenue Agency calls to U.S. citizens.
The arrests have now proven to have a Canadian twist.
Since the bust, a Canadian version of the scam – this one using fake calls from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) – has unexpectedly disappeared, the RCMP announced on Friday.
"After the police operation in Thane, the RCMP observed that the number of reports related to the CRA scam had significantly decreased to a small fraction of what was reported for the weeks and months leading up to these arrests," the Mounties stated in a press release.
Since January of 2014, at least 1,900 Canadians have been duped by calls from people claiming to work for the CRA.
The imposters tell their victims they owe a large debt to the federal tax-collection agency and demand immediate payment by credit card, wire transfer or iTunes gift cards.
The callers threaten the victims, saying that any failure to pay the back taxes will result in jail time.
The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has received reports from victims of losses totalling $5.7-million. The organization has estimated that this represents just 5 per cent of the total losses in this country.
In all, nearly 40,000 people reported getting the calls.
Other versions of the scam involve imposters claiming to represent Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada as well as various police agencies.
The Mounties are now searching for Canadian accomplices involved in the international fraud ring.
According to police in Mumbai, at least 700 people worked in the call centres, which netted more than $150,000 (U.S.) a day.
Officers seized computers, servers and other equipment in raids. Police charged the alleged ringleaders with extortion, impersonation and violations of the country's information-technology laws.
An FBI cybercrime expert is working on the ground in Thane to share evidence, according to the Indian broadcaster NDTV.
Indian police are scouring the country for 23-year-old Sagar Thakkar, also known as "Shaggy," the alleged mastermind of the multimillion-dollar racket.
With a report from The Associated Press