US-based YouTuber and former NASA engineer Mark Rober, well known for his elaborate glitter bomb pranks on phone scammers, released a video on Sunday, 8 May 2022, in which his team is shown targeting four alleged scam call centers in Kolkata.
Rober teamed up with fellow YouTubers Jim Browning and Trilogy Media to set off stink bombs, glitter bombs, cockroaches, rats, and smoke bombs in the offices of these call centres.
In the video, which has gone viral, Rober claims that the actions of his team caused several call centres in India to shut down, at least temporarily. He also claims that he contacted Kolkata Police but no action was taken.
He suggested that there were a few "bad apples" preventing the "good apples" from taking action.
How They Did It
Rober, who has previously targeted middlemen in scam operations, wanted to "take it all the way to the top, even if it meant taking this fight to the other side of the globe."
With Browning's help, the team was able to gain access to the CCTV feeds of the call centers, while Ashton Bingham and Art Kulik from Trilogy Media traveled to Kolkata to execute the plan.
The group recruited private investigators and "reformed scammers" who who applied for jobs at these call centres and smuggled in contraptions to set off cockroaches, rats, glitterbombs, and stink bombs at the offices.
According to Rober, the scammers, members of a 50,000 strong pan-India WhatsApp group, caught wind of Trilogy Media's arrival in Kolkata and went on high alert.
One of the "sleeper agents" was also discovered and men were allegedly sent to his house, presumably to intimidate him. Directions were also given to "shoot" the YouTubers on sight.
Through CCTV footage, Rober and his team also found out that these call centres allegedly make around $65,000 a day, amounting to an estimated $20 million a year in revenue.
How These Scams Work
Call centre scams often target elderly women from the United States. The caller/emailer pretends to represent the Internal Revenue Service or a big tech company like Amazon or Microsoft.
Rober illustrates with an example:
The emailer pretends to be from a well-known company and tells the old lady that she is owed 200 dollars and can redeem the money over call.
On call, the scammers ask the victim to type the amount into an interface, but secretly add two extra zeroes, making it seem like the victim has received $20,000 instead of $200. They take the victim to a fake bank site to confirm the error.
The scammer then weaponises their empathy by telling the victim that because of their fault, the scammer is liable to lose his/her job. "My family will die," one said, in a video clip.
The scammers get the victims to withdraw the $20,000 in cash and physically mail it to the scammer. The victim agrees because they think it is extra cash that they have received due to an error.