Podcaster: “Can you admit to me that you’re a scammer please?”

Enlarge[1] / This was the Accostings website as seen in 2016.Accostings.comreader comments 5[2]Share this story The following post contains spoilers of Reply All episode #103: Long Distance, Part II[3], which was released on August 3, 2017. If you don’t wish to know what happens in that episode, read no further.Last week, we brought you the story of how Reply All‘s Alex Goldman managed to track down one of the top executives at an Indian company, Accostings Infotech, which appears to run a tech support scam.

At the end of Part I[4], Goldman and his colleague, Damiano Marchetti, went to India to meet with Kamal Verma of Accostings Infotech. Since that story ran, Verma has removed his Facebook and LinkedIn profiles.

This is a summary of the conclusion[5] of that story. On Thursday, Ars called the number listed on the (now-shuttered) QuickPCResolve (one of Accostings’ faux subsidiaries) website–1-855-955-2666. We spoke with someone who told us that Accostings had been “shut down” because of “some issues.” The new company, QuickPCResolve, simply provides “technical support” to anyone with “technical problems,” and it apparently no longer has anything to do with Accostings.

But back to Goldman and Marchetti. Our heroes arrived in Delhi in July 2017, where they quickly hired a driver who took them to their hotel. Once they arrived, they called Verma directly and left a voicemail.

“Hey Kamal, it’s Alex Goldman,” Goldman said. “Are you planning on coming in tomorrow? We want to meet you.” The following day, Verma still hadn’t called back.

So on their first full day in India, the dynamic duo tried to go find the actual call center itself. Their first lead was Club Road in the Punjabi Bagh district in Delhi–the addresses that they had for Accostings were 1 and 26 Club Road. Unsure which address to try first, they thought, why not go to the local bar that Verma and his colleagues seemed to enjoy, a place called “Chug It[6]“?

They went there and found out that the bar had actually closed down. It had been taken over by a new business called “Headphones[7].” While the new people affiliated with Headphones didn’t seem to know much about Accostings, they did mention that there is a call center “upstairs,” but they said that it was “domestic.”

So Goldman and Marchetti tried to find 1 Club Road. They asked around, but all they found was a “meditation center.” Seemingly at a dead end, they tried 26 Club Road, roughly a half-mile down the road. Despite Goldman tripping and needing to get out of the heat, they eventually reached 26 Club Road.

There, they found a bar on the ground floor and another unrelated business on the second floor. But, on the third floor, they found a company with no markings at all. They believed it might actually be Accostings.

They tried to ask a local security guard, but it quickly became apparent that the man didn’t speak any English. The reporters deduced that if they simply waited until 6pm local time–nine-and-a-half hours ahead of New York, which would be around when the East Coast of the US is waking up–they should see hordes of people coming into the building. But when no one appeared after a 90-minute stakeout, they sent Verma a text.

“Hey Kamal, what’s the address of Accostings? I know it’s on Club Road, but I’m just trying to find the exact address,” Goldman wrote. Amazingly, Verma wrote back: “Yeah, it was.

I left, and it’s no more an operation for the time being.” At that point, Marchetti wondered if, in fact, Verma was telling the truth. Had the entire company closed down?

Was the entire trip was a waste of time?

1 Club Road, Delhi, India.1 Club Road, Delhi, India.Google Maps

“Don’t worry about it”

As Goldman and Marchetti tried to figure out what to do next, Verma texted again: “Let’s meet up for dinner!” He suggested “somewhere good for a night out.” They all ended up at “The Wine Company[8],” a wine bar in “Cyber City,” an area just outside Delhi, near the airport.

Verma walked out of the bar to meet the two reporters, and Goldman recognized him immediately. “Nice to meet you, man!” Goldman said enthusiastically. He later described their hug as “very awkward.”

Verma told them that he had a friend with him and that they should all go back into the bar. Goldman and Marchetti followed him in, and who should be there but Deepak Verma, seemingly the owner of Accostings. Deepak was wearing a tight-fitting black t-shirt, with slick-backed hair.

Goldman admits in the podcast: “We were not prepared for this.” Nevertheless, they continued, under the premise that Kamal Verma was wholly out of Accostings and wanted to spill his guts to them. But Deepak Verma seemed to be having none of it.

He repeatedly asked them, “So what’s your plan in India?” The New Yorkers demurred and said that they were going to “play it by ear.” When Goldman tried to make small talk and humorously remark on the fact that they were all sitting around together, six months after the initial scam attempt, Deepak Verma launched into what seemed like a scripted response.

“‘The call center never did anything wrong,'” Marchetti explains in the podcast episode. “‘The scam call that we got was this funny, weird mix-up, and anyway Accostings is shut down now, so don’t worry about it.'” At one point during the dinner, Goldman mentioned the specific name of the hotel that they were staying at, Heveli Hauz[9]. Eventually the dinner ended, and everyone went their separate ways.

1 Club Road

The following day, Goldman and Marchetti moved hotels immediately.

In their words, they were “panicking” because they only had two days left in India and they still hadn’t definitively found the call center.

Then, in the early afternoon, Goldman’s phone rang–Kamal Verma wanted them all to meet at a restaurant. This time, the journalists were much better prepared. They arrived early to the place where Verma wanted to meet: Tourist[10].

They bribed the waiter to turn down the overheard music in their section and got their recorders all set up and ready to go. Suddenly, Deepak Verma and Kamal Verma appeared. Immediately, as Goldman describes in the podcast, “things started going off the rails,” as it was “clear that they knew everyone in this bar.” Once the two men saw the recording gear, they said they didn’t want to do a recorded interview.

“I have so many questions about Accostings,” Goldman implored them. “We are working on a story about it. And I think it would be worthwhile to have you guys talk.” Deepak Verma, at that point, seemed agitated.

He summoned the waiter over, who warned them that he might call the authorities. Finally, the reporters turned the recorders off. Marchetti, at this point in the podcast, said he was fearful and expecting police to come through the door.

“Everything in my body is telling me we need to get out of here,” he said. At that point, the waiter returned with a full bottle of whiskey. Deepak Verma poured himself a whiskey and Coca-Cola.

And another. Goldman and Marchetti watched as Deepak Verma was “pouring sweat” and observed him wipe his face down “every few minutes because he was sweating so badly.” Finally, Marchetti asked Kamal Verma about the initial call with “Alex Martin.” But Verma denied it up and down.

More than that, he added that he “fired” Alex Martin, noting that he was a “troublemaker.” At one point, Deepak Verma chimed in: “Alex Martin? Fuck that guy.”

He even showed them a “gnarled” pinky finger that Deepak claimed was bruised because he had “slapped the shit out of that guy.”

Finally, as this entire scene played out, Marchetti decided that it was time for him and Goldman to leave.

References

  1. ^ Enlarge (cdn.arstechnica.net)
  2. ^ 5 posters participating (arstechnica.com)
  3. ^ #103: Long Distance, Part II (gimletmedia.com)
  4. ^ At the end of Part I (arstechnica.com)
  5. ^ conclusion (gimletmedia.com)
  6. ^ Chug It (www.facebook.com)
  7. ^ Headphones (www.facebook.com)
  8. ^ The Wine Company (www.facebook.com)
  9. ^ Heveli Hauz (havelihauzkhas.com)
  10. ^ Tourist (www.livemint.com)

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