Nearly an hour into the phone call, the woman began to get suspicious. The man on the line said he was with the Internal Revenue Service and that she owed a penalty for tax fraud. To make the payment, he told her to drive to a nearby grocery store in suburban San Diego and purchase an iTunes gift card, the Los Angeles Times reports. Twice he said she owed “1,000 rupees,” before correcting himself to say $1,000. The name he gave, Daniel Parker, sounded odd. He spoke with a foreign accent and mangled basic phrases. The 29-year-old woman had shared an iTunes card number worth $500, becoming one of tens of thousands of Americans drawn in by an extensive, years-long scam in which callers from India pose as IRS agents to extort money from taxpayers.
Indian call centers have built a reputation for handling customer service and tech support inquiries for major U.S. companies. In recent years, investigators in several countries have traced several organized phone frauds involving callers posing as computer technicians, debt collectors, immigration officials, or tax agents, to India. The Federal Trade Commission described Indian call centers as “the source of various impostor frauds that have reached consumers throughout the English-speaking world.” Last month, police in the Mumbai suburb of Thane raided three office buildings suspected of being sites for fraudulent IRS calls and rounded up more than 700 people for questioning. At least 70 remain behind bars as investigators have expanded the probe to include dozens of call centers in several Indian states.