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Microsoft Tech Support Scammers Arrested In UK

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Annoying tech support scammers … four arrested in the UK after City police team up with Microsoft

City of London Police have teamed up with software giant Microsoft, and arrested four people for computer software service fraud.

The two year collaboration also involved officers from North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU) and Surrey and Sussex Police Cyber Crime Unit.

It comes as fraudsters pretending to be Microsoft tech support have reportedly scammed hundreds of millions of pounds from victims around the world.

tech support

UK Arrests

Many of the Microsoft tech support calls originate in India, but sometimes are closer to home.

The City of London Police said that their collaboration with Microsoft resulted in the arrested a 29 year old man and a 31 year old woman on suspicion of fraud in in Woking (Surrey) by the Sussex Police Cyber Crime Unit. Both have since been bailed.

Meanwhile further north, in South Shields to be exact, a 37 year old man and 35 year old woman were arrested on suspicion of fraud by NERSOU Officers. Again both were later released pending further enquiries.

Microsoft reportedly provided forensic and investigative services, and analysed tens of thousands of Action Fraud reports. It also worked with other affected organisations, such as BT to attempt to trace the source of the problem.

The police said that the average loss suffered by victims is £600 and the average age of victims is 62. But the police are concerned that the number of victims could be much higher as analysis shows many fail to report being a victim.

Convincing Fraudsters

The fraudsters often claim to be calling from Microsoft tech support, and cold call their victim. The fraudsters often start the call with an outright lie, telling the victim that they have detected a problem with their computer.

It eventually results in a fee being paid in order for the issue to be “resolved.”

But it is a total scam from start to finish, and no actual fix occurs. It works because the victim provides the fraudsters with access to their computer (and sometimes their bank account), and once that happen they can install software which could potentially be malicious.

“We’d also 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,” said Hugh Milward, Director, Corporate, External and Legal Affairs, Microsoft UK.

“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,” said Commander Dave Clark, City of London Police and National Co-ordinator for Economic Crime.

In March ISP TalkTalk blocked the use of remote access tool TeamViewer over its network as a security measure amidst reports of users being targeted by scammers.

After the infamous TalkTalk hack in 2015, scammers made use of the stolen data to convince users they were TalkTalk tech support staff, then tricked them into installing malware that stole funds from their bank accounts, with some losing as much as £10,000.

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