Zambia arrests 77 people in swoop on “scam” call centre

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Law enforcement officers in Zambia have arrested 77 people at a call centre company they allege had employed local school-leavers to engage in scam internet users around the world.

According to Zambian authorities, Chinese-run Golden Top Support Services, based in an upmarket area of capital city Lusaka, recruited Zambian youths between the ages of 20-25, who believed they were being hired as call centre agents.

In reality, the workers were tasked to engage in fraudulent conversations with mobile users around the world via WhatsApp, Telegram, and other online chatrooms using scripted dialogues designed to steal money from their unsuspecting victims.

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In a press conference posted on Facebook, Zambia’s Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) described how officials had swooped on the premises of Golden Top Support Services after months of investigation into the alleged internet fraud syndicate.

According to the authorities, victims have not been limited to Zambia’s borders, but have stretched as far away as countries including Singapore, Peru, the United Arab Emirates, and others across Africa.

DEC director general Nason Banda underlined the importance of scam victims reporting fraud incidents to the authorities:

“I want to assure the people of Zambia that we are out to get these criminals. And we are working in collaboration with all the experts in Zambia. What is important to note again is that we shall not at all relent. And there will be no sacred cows… Please the people of Zambia report to us every time you are scammed. Come and tell us. Because that will be the starting point. If you don’t report to us you will continue being scammed.”

The raid on Golden Top Support Services, which has been described as a “significant breakthrough in the fight against cybercrime”, not only arrested 77 people (including 22 Chinese men and one Cameroonian) but also seized vehicles, two firearms, 78 rounds of ammunition, 97 desktop PCs, 42 new and boxed computers, and over 13,000 Airtel, MTN, and Vodafone SIM cards.

During the operation, investigators also uncovered other IT equipment, including 11 SIM boxes which allow calls to bypass legitimate phone networks and make fraudulent calls.

Six properties linked to the company at the centre of the investigation have also been seized by authorities, including a luxury lakeside residence.

17 Zambian suspects have since been released, but the remainder of those arrested have been detained for further questioning.