Breaking News

Company indicted, others out of $20 million in robocall scams that cheated Georgians

Robocall Scams That Cheated Georgians

Karen Faulkner of Marietta was a victim of a scam that cost her $35,000 in 2019. A year later, the company accused of perpetuating the fraud scheme that cost Americans more than $20 million has been indicted, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.

“I am very happy and relieved to hear that these predators have been caught,” Faulkner told AJC.com on Tuesday. “My hope is that the consequences are equal to the trauma and distress they created in the lives of their victims.”

In what authorities called “a first-of-its-kind indictment,” a Florida-based server farm was ordered to stop providing E Sampark, an Indian Voice Over IP company, with servers after they used them to send "tens of millions of scam calls” into the U.S. from May 2015 to June 2020, U.S. Attorney BJay Pak wrote in a news release.

Authorities believe Gaurav Gupta directed and operated E Sampark.

“The defendants bombarded American consumers with scam calls, causing emotional and financial devastation, including to vulnerable and elderly individuals,” Pak said. “Those who facilitate fraudulent calls into the United States will be investigated and brought to justice.”

India-based callers claimed to be U.S. federal agents and used multiple fraudulent methods, including IRS impersonation and loan scams, to mislead victims over the phone, authorities reported.

During one scam, callers pretended to be from government agencies and deceived victims into believing their Social Security number was involved in criminal activities.

“Callers threatened arrest and the loss of the victims' assets if the victims did not send money," Pak said. "The callers directed victims to send cash to aliases used by other members of the fraud network, and to transfer funds via gift cards to the callers.”

Faulkner was one of the victims. She received a call from Medford, Oregon, on Nov. 5, 2019, and an automated voice said she needed to speak with a U.S. Social Security Administration representative because her identity was stolen, AJC.com reported.

Faulkner said she spoke with a federal agent who said her identity had been used by someone to purchase two houses and Toyota Corollas in El Paso, Texas, along with seven bank accounts under her name. She was also told she had active drug trafficking and money laundering warrants out for her arrest.

“During this whole process, he’s throwing out all the right words: investigation, privacy laws, criminal charges, felony and warrant for my arrest,” Faulkner said.

She said the agent told her to purchase gift cards to exchange for government vouchers and that if she didn’t, her bank accounts would be frozen.

“My biggest concern was my business, which I opened two and a half months ago,” she said at the time. “I was worried that money was going to be frozen. That scared me."

Per the agent’s directions, Faulkner drove around Cobb County and made 16 transactions for gift cards, which were worth $100 to $500 apiece. The cards included stores like Nordstrom, Target, Sephora and GameStop, according to receipts she provided to AJC.com

“The callers had the victim provide them with the numbers on the back of the cards, which allowed them to steal the funds from her,” Pak said. “E Sampark and Gupta allegedly connected the victim with the fraudsters.”

In April 2017, another Georgia resident received multiple calls from someone who claimed to be an IRS official. The caller told the victim he owed $28,000 to the agency in back taxes and that he would be arrested if he did not pay. The victim was directed to transfer “$500 and $1,990 to two aliases in order to resolve the issue,” Pak said. The victim followed through with the wire transfers, and federal investigators believe E Sampark connected scammers to the victim.

“Defendants Gupta and E Sampark maintained approximately sixty servers in Florida that the company used at times to connect criminal India-based callers with American consumers,” Pak said. “The servers contained over 130,000 recordings of scam calls, including robocall voicemail recordings and conversations between the India-based scammers and U.S.-based victims.”

AJC.com has reached out to discover whether the $20 million American consumers lost was recovered.

As for Faulkner, she was told in 2019 that there was “no chance” for her to recover the money she lost.

“Now that we have a business name and a director’s name, I plan to pursue getting my money back,” she said. “I would like to thank all those who had a role in bringing this horrendous ‘game’ to an end.”

According to authorities, government agencies will never threaten an individual if a payment isn’t made, and they will send physical letters with payment options and appeal rights.

They are asking anyone who is 60 or older who has been a victim of financial fraud to contact the National Elder Fraud Hotline.

Source - https://www.ajc.com/news/company-indicted-in-robocall-scams-that-cheated-georgians-others-out-of-20-million/NSMYOI5XFZC45N7VZNW4OARZFI/

No comments