It’s Thursday morning within the Rip-off Hub – a darkened room on the BBC’s Pacific Quay studio in Glasgow stuffed with glowing screens and folks feverishly tapping away on laptops beneath the glare of TV cameras – and the environment is tense. We’re eavesdropping on a name between a person within the UK and a scammer in Calcutta, India, who has managed to speak her approach contained in the unwitting scamee’s Amazon account.
Believing that he’s receiving a benevolent customer support name warning of rogue exercise, the person has been conned into making a gift of a non-public passcode. Worse, the scammer has satisfied him to obtain software program to his cellphone granting distant entry to his gadget, which may permit the harvesting of far more delicate info together with financial institution particulars.
Earlier than issues get that far, the person grows suspicious and hangs up. After the road clicks lifeless, we hear the scammer exclaim “Motherfucker” in Punjabi. Nonetheless inside the person’s Amazon account, she quickly begins making a bunch of random costly purchases together with a luxurious mattress for £1,000.
“They’re shopping for stuff out of spite proper now,” Nick Stapleton, the lead interceptor, explains exasperatedly from behind three TV screens, 4 laptops and three cellphones. “Scammers don’t profit financially from this in any respect. They’re simply doing it, presumably, as a result of they’re irritated that he realised it was a rip-off.”
We’re in a position to see and listen to all of this occur as a result of the rip-off interceptors have turned the distant entry expertise utilized by cyber-criminals towards them. They’ve secretly tapped into the cellphone strains and screens of one in every of many operations in Kolkata’s Sector V – “the Silicon Valley of scam-call centres”, as Stapleton describes it. There, scammers working in groups of anyplace between 5 and 150 folks pose as workers from corporations which might be family names in sectors from finance to tech and e-commerce.
This is only one of dozens of swindles that Stapleton, a reporter and investigative film-maker, and his colleagues will disrupt in the present day. He dials the sufferer’s quantity, gleaned from the counter-hack. “I’m a journalist, I work for the BBC,” Stapleton explains, in an assertive guy-off-the-TV voice. “I make a programme referred to as Rip-off Interceptors for BBC One. We monitor the exercise of scam-call centres, and we will see among the numbers that they’re calling. That individual that you just have been simply speaking to is a scammer. They don’t have anything to do with Amazon.”