The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), a federal police force, arrested an Indian couple from Brampton, northwest of Toronto on February 12.
The couple is alleged to be accomplices in a major global scam involving Indian call centres where callers have been impersonating officials from Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and demanding money owed in taxes or face arrest and imprisonment.
Between 2014 and 2019, some 60,000 Canadian residents have been defrauded of more than $17.2 million. The actual amount may be much higher since these are only the known cases where people have complained to the police.
The husband and wife team, Gurinder Dhaliwal, 37, and Inderpreet Dhaliwal, 36, were arrested and charged with one count of fraud over $5,000, one count of laundering the proceeds of crime and one count of property obtained by crime.
When investigators searched the couple’s home, they found $26,000 in cash, $114,000 in jewelry, and a cash-counting machine.
In September 2018, the CBC sent an investigative team of journalists to Bombay where it discovered scam operators working from apartment buildings as well as non-descript offices.
Since then, at least 39 such scam call centres in the Indian capital Delhi have been shut down. Many others are still operating while the police in both countries continue their investigation.
It is not clear how much cooperation the Canadian police are getting from their Indian counterparts where corruption is rampant. It also cannot be ruled out that some policemen in India may be involved in the scam and taking a cut out of the illegal proceeds.
Bear in mind that at least 40 percent members of India’s current parliament face serious charges for such crimes as murder, rape and massive financial fraud. Yet they sit in parliament making laws for the rest of the country!
When criminals become lawmakers, it is not surprising that criminal syndicates will emerge and target vulnerable people.
Victims of such scams are often elderly people or new Canadians. The elderly are most vulnerable because they have few people to turn to for advice. Often, they live alone and are easily manipulated.
New Canadians are not fully familiar with Canadian laws and don’t realize that federal tax authorities or major tech companies would never demand payment unsolicited, either by phone or online.
Also, they would not ask people to pay in difficult-to-trace Bitcoin or retail gift cards. Payment is required by cheque or for the computer literate, by e-transfer but to CRA account through its legal website.
If a person owes tax to Canada Revenue Agency, he/she would get a letter from the agency outlining what is owed.
The CRA would also ask the person to present evidence if he/she disputes the amount demanded.
Unfortunately, phone call fraud has become quite common with fraudsters hiding the actual number they are calling from and use an Ottawa number that starts with 613 area code.
Vulnerable people are threatened with tax fraud or immigration violations. Most of these fraudsters operate from India or China.
Indians seem to be masters at such fraud. Two months ago, hundreds of Indian students were deported from Toronto Pearson International Airport when their English test results were found to be bogus.
They did not have adequate knowledge of the English language even though they claimed to have passed the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam that is required to gain admission to a college in Canada.