SAN FRANCISCO - Police in India have arrested a young man suspected of masterminding a notorious IRS scam. The suspect is barely 24 years old, but supposedly made millions with this fraud.
Authorities say the man is behind those menacing calls from IRS impersonators demanding payment and threatening jail. He looks like he's barely out of high school. But authorities say his pockets were stuffed with your cash.
The airwaves in India heralded his arrest. He was captured at the Mumbai Airport two weeks ago
"He looks like a fresh faced Indian kid," Sunita Sohrabji with India West said.
Sohrabji has been reporting about the IRS scam for India West newspaper in San Leandro. Now, Indian media is buzzing with reports of the boyish Mumbai resident accused of orchestrating those fake IRS calls to millions of Americans-
Sagar Thakkar, nicknamed 'Shaggy,' is accused of swiping millions of dollars from his victims.
"It's very likely Americans might have been targeted by one of Mr. Thakkar's employees," Sohrabji said.
According to authorities Thakkar started out as a legitimate call center worker, but allegedly used the centers for scams, recruiting other youngsters to help, paying them well.
"They're what are called 'freshers,' which means they are just out of college, this may be their first job," Sohrabji said.
She says at first many of them don't realize their work is a scam, thinking the IRS is just another client.
"A lot of them believe they are legitimately working for the U.S. government and getting people to pay their back taxes. And that's the belief of these call center workers that allows them to continue perpetuating this scam in good conscience," Sohrabji said.
And now that Thakkar is behind bars, she says not to expect the calls to stop. "I think it's the tip of the iceberg, I think you're going to find a lot more of this coming around."
U.S. authorities agree. "This arrest does not bring an end to the problem, as scammers continue to employ impersonation of the irs as a scare tactic to con people. We continue to urge taxpayers to be on their guard," a treasury representative said.
Sohrabji says call centers are part of the culture in Mumbai, so the possibility of fraud remains.
"There is already this shiny office building with cubicles set up and all of that. It's easy to turn a legitimate call center into a fraudulent call center
Thakkar is also named in a federal indictment in the United States, along with 60 other suspects in various call center scams. Besides the IRS scheme, they include a federal grant scam where callers claim their target has been awarded a large grant but must pay a fee to claim it. That's all fake too.
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