US attorney general William Barr told lawmakers on Tuesday that large criminal organisations based in India are among those scamming the elderly in America and that he had set up a strike force to combat the growing menace that he called a “sleeping giant” of frauds.
US authorities have indicated and prosecuted many Indians for imposter scams involving the elderly and others, such as phony tech support rackets and Internal Revenue Service calls threatening incarceration for overdue income tax payments over the past some years.
“A lot of these scams (elder frauds) are perpetrated wholly within the United States but increasingly,” Barr said during a congressional hearing, “they are actually operated by international criminal organisations, a lot of them come out of India.”
Barr, who is also the country’s top law enforcement officer said he was paying special attention to elder fraud. In his first term as AG, under President George H W Bush, he had focused on healthcare fraud as a “sleeping giant” and his second term, working with President Donald Trump he was focused on elder fraud as a “sleeping giant” that had suddenly awoken into a “major area of criminality”, “it has mushroomed”.
The elderly are trapped either through pop-ups in the Internet warning them of a malware in their computer that could access their personal information, when no such thing would have actually taken place.
They would then go on to fix it for a hefty feel. Or, call them posing as federal tax agents about unpaid dues. In some instance, callers trap the elderly on dating sites, or get in touch seeking help to bail out grandchildren in trouble.
Barr was responding to questions about these scams raised by members of both parties, showing bipartisan concern about one of the most vulnerable sections of the population, the elderly, who as Barr described it, as people that do not have a “runway to recover when they lose their life’s savings”.
He added: “I have set up a strike force to go after the large criminal organisations that we think are behind this.”
There was no response from the justice department to a request for follow-up details about the attorney general’s remarks about India, and it could not immediately established if India would be a major target of his initiative.
Indian law enforcement agencies have cooperated with Americans to take down Indian wings of these scams, some of which were found to have been working out of call centers.
Barr’s predecessor Jeff Sessions had announced the sentencing of 21 people of India descent in July 2018 running a “Telefraud Scam” the United States from five call centers in Ahmedabad.
“The stiff sentences imposed represent the culmination of the first-ever large scale, multi-jurisdiction prosecution targeting the India call center scam industry,” Sessions had said at the time. “This case represents one of the most significant victories to date in our continuing efforts to combat elder fraud and the victimisation of the most vulnerable members of the US public.”
Attorney General Barr has focused his attention on it as well.
Apr 10, 2019 10:01 IST