Even though cyber criminals are likely to cause no physical danger, they are chased after by law enforcement institutions. On June 27, 2017, four fraudsters were taken into custody on suspicion of fraud. The foursome were arrested after a two-year investigation into a computer software service fraud which involved deceptive scam calls under the guise of a Microsoft's IT support specialist. According to the survey carried out by Microsoft in 2016, two out of free people have dealt with a tech support scam in the previous year.
City of London Police and Microsoft teamed up to identify people behind multiple fraudulent calls resulting in substantial money losses. Surrey and Sussex Police Cyber Crime Unite in Woking arrested two criminals: a 29-year-old man and a 34-year-old woman. The other two alleged fraudster, a 37-year-old man and 35-year-old woman, were arrested in South Shields and later released. It was investigated that a great number of the scam calls originated in India, but the arrested people have been accused of being involved.
There were 34,504 computer software service fraud reports registered at the UK's national fraud and cyber reporting center. In total, the financial losses are estimated at £20,698,859, which makes this type of fraud the third most reported type of cyber deception. It has also been calculated that the senior citizens are highly susceptible to this type of fraud since the average age of victims is 62. Moreover, the average loss caused by cyber attackers is believed to be £600, but it is thought that the total numbers of reports on frauds and money losses are much higher since not all victims succeed to report the attempts to deceive them.
Unfortunately to computer users, Microsoft is not the only company the name of which has been used to dupe people into paying money or revealing valuable information. Customers of TalkTalk have also been targeted by an industrial-scale fraud network based in India. Victims were convinced to install a computer virus which was controlled by a separate group responsible for accessing victims' online banking.
Additionally, cyber attackers can also pretend to be a victim's internet service providers. Criminals find out the ISP by infecting a victim's computer with malware that redirects a user to a website invisible to the user where the IP address becomes accessible to the remote attackers.
Cyber attackers find various ways to deceive unsuspecting computer users into paying money for the solutions of imaginary OS issues. Most common types of computer software service frauds are cold calling and tech support scams that reach victims as on screen pop-ups. The latter ones are very often analyzed by malware researchers since pop-up scams are caused by malicious software programs that can be studied carefully. For example, a tech support scam can try to convince users that their PCs are infected with the Zeus virus, or any other piece of malware, or that they have to call some toll-free number to get more information about the malfunctions detected on their computers.
In general, cold calling refers to a salesman's contacting a potential client without any prior interest or request expressed by the client. In computer software service, or tech support, scams a victim is contacted and informed that the computer in use have some problems that can be fixed for a payment. Very often a victim is asked to give remote access to the computer, which results in the installation of images showing infections or actual malware. As remote schemers only mimic faults on computers, no actual fix takes place. Eventually, a victim is tricked into making a payment or revealing banking data, such bank account number and passwords, to a pretend IT specialist. The target may be contacted later and informed that another payment is to be paid.
Microsoft declares that they will never reach out to their clients for personal information. All communication with Microsoft's clients is initiated after clients' inquiries.
Tech support scam pop-ups can be set up by malware programs and malicious websites, which are usually difficult to close. The ultimate goal of such scams is to compel you to reveal your sensitive information, purchase a fake security program, or install malware or a virus onto your machine. Different organizations or departments may be presented as the initiators of the communication with the client, including Windows Helpdesk, Microsoft Tech Support, Windows Technical Department Support Group, Windows Service Center, etc.
Computer users can report tech support scans by filling in a complaint form at specific websites. In the US, use the FTC Complaint Assistant form, whereas Canada-located tech support scam victims can report the fraud at Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. In the UK, Action Fraud and TPS offer their services.
Law enforcement and computer firms strongly advise against revealing your sensitive information to third parties. All unsolicited phone calls related to your identity should be disregarded. Questionable emails from computer firms or online services should also be managed carefully especially if they contain links to websites or spreadsheets, where the computer might be infected with malware. In case of any doubt, you should always reach out to the sender to make sure that the request or order to download software or open a website is legitimate and safe.
"Arrested in UK over Microsoft scam calls," BBC. Available at:http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-40430048
"Avoid technical support scams," Microsoft. Available at: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/safety/online-privacy/avoid-phone-scams.aspx
"City of London POlice collaborate with Microsoft to tackle computer software service fraud," City of London Police. Available at: http://news.cityoflondon.police.uk/r/853/city_of_london_police_collaborate_with_microsoft_
Gregoire, Courtney. "The fight against tech support scams," Microsoft. Available at: https://blogs.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2017/05/18/fight-tech-support-scams/
Wakefield, Jane. "Tech support scams target victims via their ISP," BBC. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-36084989
White, Geoff. "Inside the TalkTalk 'Indian scam call center'," BBC. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-39177981