Fraudsters convinced Devon man his computer had been taken over by a Russian criminal involved in trafficking guns, ammunition and hand grenades
Police in India have shut down two call centres and arrested seven people they say were involved in computer fraud believed to have targeted thousands of individuals in the UK and the United States.
The scam, based in Kolkata, involved initially selling fraudulent computer security services, then taking over targets’ PCs, the BBC reported.
Targeted individuals lost up to thousands of pounds, according to British and Indian police.
Microsoft was also involved in the four-year investigation as scam callers often claim to be working for the company.
Computer software service fraud is one of the most widespread online scams, with more than 2,000 cases reported to Action Fraud each month, according to City of London Police.
Kolkata Police shut down two call centres in the city, including Vision Call Services, which in some cases pretended to be based in New York City.
One target, Doug Varey, a retired businessman living in Devon, became involved in the scam after signing up for security services he had seen advertised online.
Several months later, a representative of the fraudulent computer security firm telephoned him at home and told him his computer had been taken over by criminals.
Varey was shown pictures of what he was told was a Russian hacker buying guns, ammunition and hand grenades. He was told he could solve the problem by paying an additional £4,000 for advanced security services.
Several weeks later Varey realised he had been the victim of a scam and later worked with Microsoft to provide evidence against the criminals.
City of London police encouraged those who believe they have been involved in fraud to contact Action Fraud.
Police said users should verify callers claiming to be Microsoft, their telephony provider or their internet service provider and should not call phone numbers provided in pop-up messages that claim there is a fault with their computer.
Scams commonly work through cold calls or pop-up online messages claiming to have detected a security fault on the system.
Scammers then often attempt to convince users to give them remote access to their computers, after which they try to gain access to users’ online bank accounts.
“They are very convincing, tenacious and have developed sophisticated systems in an effort to elude capture,” said Commander Karen Baxter of the City of London Police.
Microsoft said public-private partnerships “are essential if we are to combat sophisticated cyber criminals who operate on a global scale”.