The man who duped Americans and made AED 2 million a year

The Indian trained bogus call centre employees to pose as IRS officers and took away victim’s money. 

Meryl D'Souza October 19, 2016

Shagar Thakkar is no ordinary 24-year-old. At such a young age he is believed to be the mastermind behind the call centre scam in which US citizens were duped out of millions of dollars.

After graduating from a college in Gujarat, India, Thakkar started working for a man named Jagdish Kanani. Kanani trained Thakkar in the dark art of approaching gullible Americans. A source claims that they preferred old, retired Americans as easy meat. As it so usually happens, the teacher and the student had a falling out which led to Thakkar leaving for the city of Mumbai. 

There, Thakkar, who went by the nickname Shaggy, set up a fraudulent call centre empire much like Jordan Belfort. Thakkar used his riches to lure in family and close friends. The 24-year-old is said to be quite the peacock with a swanky apartment and a slew of luxury cars. He even gifted his girlfriend an Audi R8 on her 21st birthday. Evidently, the conman was very generous.

How the scam worked

Thakkar would use flyers and the power of social media to invite candidates with no qualifications to work for a call centre. Candidates that showed potential were then rigorously trained to maintain an American accent.

Once his candidates were ready, Thakkar would hand each of them a six-page script and proceed to mock calls. Any candidate that perfected the script and passed through the mock calls was taken on board as an employee.

These employees were trained at illegal call centres in Mira Road, a developing arena in the Thane district of Mumbai. The employees would use VoIPs to call citizens in the US who would only see calls coming in with the number starting from +911. 

Each caller would pose as an employee of the Internal Revenue Service of America or the Immigration department and threaten victims of IRS raids and arrest as they had defaulted on tax payment. To avoid the supposed consequences, victims were initially asked to pay between $10,000 and $20,000 but the caller would later settle for $5,000 to $3,000. To push the payment through, victims were asked to share the 16-digit codes of their debit cards with the caller.

The success rate of the calls wasn't very effective though. Out of every 100 calls, only three to four people would make the payments under raid threats.

How victims were selected

According to the cops, Thakkar had a few informants in the US who would acquire contact numbers of potential victims from hackers and forward them to the Thane-based call centre. The rate for about 10,000 contacts was about AED 5,000.

How they distributed the money

Callers would pass on the card details to the US counterparts who would transfer 70 per cent of the money they got and would keep 30 per cent as commission. The employees in India were paid in cash only.

Not his first time

Worryingly, this isn’t Thakkar’s first fraud scuffle. The investigating police officers believe Shaggy is also responsible for a 2012 medical scam that involved extorting money from Indians who used to spend high amounts monthly on medicines. They couldn’t catch on to Thakkar then because his team stopped everything as soon as they heard the cops got wind of their actions. 

As of now, Thakkar is on the run with the cops having no leads on his whereabouts. Now, you may sit there and think how all of this affects all of you. Well, the police have said Thakkar has a very thriving business in Dubai and could actually be holed up here. This would be a good time to remind all of you, do not pass on your card details to anyone.