‘I Thought I Was Impervious To Scams’: Readers Denounce India’s Phone Swindlers

Mel Craig’s 90-year-old father has been tormented over the past year by swindlers calling him at home, threatening him if he did not send them more money.

“Returned after a three-day trip to find receipts on the table for $300 worth of iTunes cards,” wrote Ms. Craig, a New York Times commenter in Washington, D.C. “Dad doesn’t even know what iTunes is.”

More than 1,000 readers responded to Ellen Barry’s recent article on a call center in India that is being investigated for fraud against Americans.

Many of the commenters, who responded on the article and on The Times’s Facebook post, said they, too, had received calls from strangers demanding payments or personal information. Some expressed sympathy for those who are conned, and others voiced anger at the criminals and a system that seems to do little to protect the vulnerable.

Photo
The Phoenix 007 call center eventually expanded to fill this entire building on Mira Road in Thane. Credit Poras Chaudhary for The New York Times

Readers also shared their tactics for dealing with the calls.

“Sometimes I give the scammer a made up credit card number one digit short of the full complement, then keep changing the sequence when they read it back,” Bruce in Cleveland wrote. “I can still make dinner while I’m doing this on speaker phone.”

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Here is a selection of the responses. They have been edited and condensed.

Personal Experiences With Fraud

“I thought I was impervious to scams since I had installed security software from a known, trusted company (‘ABC’).

“Two months ago ABC sent me an email saying that I didn’t have adequate protection on my system. The email asked me to download a new module to update my security package. Not even thinking remotely about potential problems with this approach, I did as they asked. But the module wouldn’t install, and it gave me an error code and a number to call. Not only that, but I was called several times from someone claiming to be their representative who would help me with this problem. So I called them back and was connected to ‘Chris Coleman,’ a fellow with a deep accent who spoke broken English. ‘Chris’ told me he needed to ‘take control’ of my system to search for viruses. Long story short, I finally tumbled to the truth when Chris asked me for my credit card to ‘buy’ some new, improved security software!”

Thomas E. Heines in Dallas, who has worked in information technology

“My 82-year-old mother, whose memory and judgment are fading, has been getting calls from ‘Windows tech support’ for a couple years. I keep telling her to just hang up, it’s a scam, but she keeps talking to them. So far they only got $300, but last month there were a couple close calls. One guy took control of her computer and tried to have her sign up for online banking (she called me before they got any money). I am taking steps to limit her access to her money. This is the only way to protect someone like her from these awful scams.”

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