The Mumbai Police on Monday raided a fake call centre in Ghatkopar and arrested 11 people, including six women, for allegedly duping several people on the pretext of settling their loans for less than half the outstanding amount.
The group took advantage of the situation caused by the pandemic and after acquiring the list of borrowers from different banks and institutions, they approached the loanees by posing as executives from these institutions and defrauded them of cash, police said.
According to the police, the fake call centre, which is based at Kailash Esplanade in Ghatkopar, started operating in April after the nationwide lockdown was announced by the government. The scam came to light in December after a 61-year-old man was duped of Rs 39,200, police said. The man then approached Shivaji Park police station and lodged a complaint, police said.
The complainant told police that he had taken a loan from two finance institutions. The complainant had been paying monthly installments but due to the lockdown, his earnings reduced and he requested a moratorium, which was granted him till August. On November 17, he received a call from a certain Raj, who said he could settle his Rs 34,000 dues on a loan he had taken from a financial institution for Rs 17,500. Since the complainant was still struggling to pay his installments, he agreed.
Raj then sent an aide to the complainant’s apartment to take the cash, police said. A day later, the complainant called Raj and asked for his help in settling an outstanding loan of Rs 1.4 lakh that he had taken from another financial institution.
“Raj said he has a friend working there and the complainant’s loan could be settled for Rs 21,700,” said a police officer. On November 21, another aide visited the complainant, gave him a settlement letter and took the cash. But on December 2, when an actual representative from the financial institution went to the complainant’s apartment to take the money, the complainant showed him the settlement letter, who forwarded it to his superior. After scrutinising further, the institution’s officials realised that the payment had never reached them.
The 61-year-old then checked with the first financial institution and even it hadn’t received any money, so he went to the police station and lodged a complaint. Shivaji Park police station registered a case under sections of cheating and cheating by impersonation.
Assistant Police Inspector Pandari Kandhe of Shivaji Park police station started hunting for the culprit by scrutinising the call data records of the person who had gone to the complainant’s apartment to collect cash.
“We managed to locate Ketan Mishra at Ghatkopar and brought him in for interrogation. We then learnt that Somnath Das was the mastermind of the case,” said Kandhe.
The police then learned that the suspects were running an illegal call centre in Ghatkopar.
On Monday afternoon, the police raided their office in Kailash Esplanade and arrested 10 people, including six women. The police seized 132 SIM cards, seven computers, four laptops and seven mobiles from the call centre. The accused, Neelam Gholap, Kajal Singh, Sayali Sonawane, Vrushali Pol, Archana Parte, Nandini Nikam, Vijay Pasram, Syed Mehmood, Krushna Jadhav and Das, have been remanded to police custody till January 15.
“We suspect that people from the finance companies are also involved because the accused managed to get the contact numbers of the loanees,” said an investigator.