Two criminal call centres in Kolkata, India, which were instrumental in defrauding thousands of victims in the UK alone through so-called “computer software service fraud”, have been put out of business in an operation conducted by City of London Police and Microsoft, in cooperation with the Indian police service.
The call centres were raided by 50 officers from the cyber division of the Kolkata Police and seven arrests were made following a four-year investigation.
To perpetrate the scam, fraudsters have been calling British consumers claiming to be from Microsoft, and warning them that their computer security has been compromised.
Consumers would then either be sold rogue software for around £200, or would be duped into allowing access to their computer and any online bank accounts, which would then be drained.
Commander Karen Baxter of the City of London Police said: “Working with Indian authorities and Microsoft, we have stopped a number of criminal call centres from preying on UK citizens.
“Make no mistake: these companies are the preserve of unscrupulous criminals who will stop at nothing to bleed their victims dry. They are very convincing, tenacious and have developed sophisticated systems in an effort to elude capture.
“But overseas fraudsters should see this as a warning: we will use every tactic in our power to halt your pernicious criminal activities.
“This operation with Indian counterparts and Microsoft demonstrates that whilst policing cannot hope to tackle fraud on its own, by working in partnership with businesses, we can achieve some justice for the members of the public who have fallen victim to such schemes.”
Impersonation fraud is one of the UK’s most prevalent crimes. In the 12 months to April 2019, the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) received over 23,500 complaints of this form of fraud. Reported financial losses in the same period were in excess of £9m per year, however, it is claimed that up to 60% of cases are never reported.
Microsoft UK head of corporate and legal affairs Hugh Milward added: “This sort of deception will not go away and effective public/private partnerships are essential if we are to combat sophisticated cyber criminals who operate on a global scale.
“We are working with law enforcement, here in the UK and internationally, to tackle these crimes and these arrests are a great result for people who have been targeted by or fallen victim to these fraudsters.
“We’d like to reassure all users of our software that Microsoft will never cold call you out of the blue to offer unsolicited tech support. The best way to report these scams is via the Action Fraud website.”
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