Alarmed by the phishing gangs operating out of India defrauding elderly US citizens of their life savings, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) now has deputed a permanent representative at the US embassy in New Delhi to work closely with the CBI, Interpol and the Delhi Police to bust these gangs and freeze money transferred through wire and crypto currencies to syndicates operating from Indian soil.
In an exclusive interview, Suhel Daud, the legal attached with the US embassy here and FBI’s South Asia head, told TOI that the romance-related frauds reported on FBI’s website by victims show estimated losses of Rs 8,000 crore in 2021 and Rs 8,000 crore in the last 11 months of 2022. Add to this the ‘tech support’ crimes and the losses are as high as $3 billion in two years. Most of the victims of these frauds are elderly above the age of 60 years.
“It may not be a national security concern yet, but reputation (of a country) is involved, and we don’t want India to suffer on that count,” Daud told TOI. The CBI and Interpol have been “strong partners” in investigating these crimes, he said, and added that the FBI is ready to supplement the investigative gaps by providing evidence to the local law enforcement agencies in prosecuting criminals involved.
Daud said, cases related to ‘tech support’ have risen by more than 130% annually and have cost the gullible Americans Rs 9,200 crore in the last two years — $347 million (Rs 2,800 crore) in 2021 and $781 million (Rs 6,400 crore) during January-November 2022. The ‘tech support’ crimes, in which a pop up appears on the computer of victims promising to provide technical support, increased 137% in 2021 (over the previous year) and 128% in 2022.
The FBI’s South Asia head spoke about the Bureau’s enhanced cooperation with Indian agencies to bust these illegal gangs that have put the world’s fifth-largest economy at the risk of being labelled as net exporter of internet and call centre-related swindles.
Daud said the FBI’s website for reporting internet crimes (ic3.gov) have registered about 8.5 lakh complaints in 2021 with estimated losses of $6.9 billion, and over 7.8 lakh complaints in the 11 months of 2022, accounting for $10.2 billion in losses. The biggest losses are on account of investment ($3 billion), business email compromise ($2.4 billion), personal data breach ($1.2 billion), romance ($1 billion) and tech support ($781 million).