The bland tower blocks of Sector V district in Kolkata are not on the itinerary of visitors to , yet the people behind the walls of these buildings are all too familiar to many in the West.
To their victims, they are just voices on the other end of the phone, purporting to be from the tax office, your bank or internet provider or simply trying to deliver a package, and they have only one sinister intent – to get your personal details and bleed you dry.
These voices on the phone do have faces and names, and their offices are real and organised, and now the Daily Mail can expose them.
In the last month alone local police have shut down five call centres in Sector V – ironically known as the City of Joy – each with hundreds of staff.
These employees are mixed in with the thousands of legitimate business people who commute to Sector V each and every day.
They wear business attire, carry their briefcases and arrive at unassuming buildings where they sit behind their desks and begin a nine-hour shift cold calling a list of victims from around the world.
In the last month alone local police have shut down five call centres, each with hundreds of staff.Pictured: a raid on a scam call centre in India
Scam crusader Jim Browning suggests some 50 per cent of the world’s scam calls can be traced back to these few blocks in West Bengal’s capital.
‘Within that small area there might be upwards of a hundred different scam call centres, in just that one area.It is definitely the capital of scams,’ Mr Browning said.
‘It’s maybe only a few kilometres in diameter but if you were able to close down all the scam call centre in that area, I would reckon maybe half of the scam calls would cease throughout the world.It’s just that serious.’
Last Friday, officers in the Bidhannagar Cyber Crime Police raided an Office 2021 block on the fourth floor of the Meridian Building in Sector V and found hundreds of men and women plying their sinister trade – ripping off the vulnerable and the trusting.
The staff huddled in small desks making calls to Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States trying to scare people into passing on their personal and financial details and to make immediate payments to avoid some imminent problem.
Sector V in Kolkata, India – also known as the City of Joy – is no more than a few blocks wide but reportedly home to hundreds of businesses which profit from the misfortune of Aussies, Brits and Americans
YouTuber and former NASA engineer Mark Rober targeted the Kolkata headquarters in a 18-month investigation alongside Mr Browning and infiltrated several offices.He was also able to hack their CCTV (pictured)
They made promises of tech support and faster internet, assuring the people on the end of the line they were from legitimate businesses and trying to help them.
‘The callers were posing as officials of popular software and mobile app companies and were installing screen sharing softwares on the victims’ systems and ultimately hacking their bank accounts,’ one officer said.
Nine high ranking employees aged between 21 and 36 were arrested during the raids, accused of helping to mastermind the lucrative scam.
Local police say since May 9 they’ve busted at least five call centres in the Kolkata region alone and arrested 53 men and women.
These scammers allegedly bring in a whopping $20 billion from victims around the globe and have targeted at least 60 million people.
Kolkata is considered a cultural hub within India and is the third largest city.
Through hacking their systems, the duo were able to obtain CCTV footage that showed dozens of employees going about their daily business and specifically trying to contact people older than 65
Despite being the third richest capital city in India, Kolkata is home to some of the worst living conditions for residents and there is a housing supply shortage.
Sector V in particular has emerged as a popular business and retail destination in Kolkata.But the reputation it’s garnered along the way as the scam capital of the world has also made it unappealing for many.
‘We also hate the scammers,’ one person said. ‘It’s an awful profession.’
It’s been an ongoing issue for the region for a number of years.In 2019, police had to seal off 15 floors across six separate buildings after shutting down fraudulent operations.
YouTuber and former NASA engineer Mark Rober targeted the Kolkata headquarters in a 18-month investigation alongside Mr Browning and infiltrated several offices in the region to ‘prank’ staff.
Through hacking their systems, the duo were able to obtain CCTV footage that showed dozens of employees going about their daily business and specifically trying to contact people older than 65.