Four people have been arrested in the United Kingdom, following a joint investigation by Microsoft and City of London Police into scam callers pretending to work for the tech giant.
The two-year collaboration found that many of the calls originated in India, but the four who were arrested in the UK - all of them on suspicion of fraud - stand accused of being involved in the scheme too. A 31-year-old woman and 29-year-old man from Woking, Surrey, were released on bail; and a 31-year-old woman and 37-year-old man who were arrested in South Shields, Tyneside, were released pending further police inquiries.
You may well have received one of these calls yourself, especially since they're not unique to the UK. Fraudsters call unsuspecting people claiming to be from Microsoft, offering help with some problem on their computers. In some instances, the caller might tell the victim that they've identified a serious issue - such as a virus, or some other problem - on their device, and that 'Microsoft' is here to help.
Of course, the caller is simply attempting to deceive the person that they've called, and this typically involves guiding the victim through a series of steps that gives the fraudster remote access to their PC so that they can install malware or ransomware on the machine, creating a problem that they can then 'fix' - in exchange for a payment.
Many of those who fall for these nefarious schemes are less tech-savvy users, including a large proportion of older persons. According to Action Fraud, the UK's national fraud and cyber-reporting centre, the average age of victims is 62, and many of them pay around £600 ($770) to resolve the issues created by the scammers. It added that 34,504 instances of these scam calls were reported during the past financial year - but it's likely that many more go unreported.
City of London Police Commander Dave Clark told BBC News:
These arrests are just the beginning of our work, making the best use of specialist skills and expertise from Microsoft, local police forces and international partners to tackle a crime that often targets the most vulnerable in our society.
In 2014, Microsoft highlighted the scourge of fake support calls, and said that they showed "no signs of slowing down", adding that "these scammers are getting bolder, targeting not only individuals but also businesses".
The company's UK director of legal affairs, Hugh Milward, said today: "We'd like to reassure all users of Microsoft software that we will never cold call you out of the blue or use tech support pop ups on websites."
Microsoft has also published a guide on its Safety & Security Center to help victims of support call fraudsters, and to help others easily identify such calls to ensure that they don't become victims of such scams in the future.
Source: BBC News