- A U.S. citizen and four companies have been barred from selling tech-support services in the future.
- 19 domains that were used for defrauding the elderly via tech-support scams have now been seized.
- The operation lasted for at least nine years and involved India-based co-conspirators.
A long-standing and widespread tech-support scam operation has been dismantled, and a U.S. federal court has now ordered a permanent injunction against an individual and four companies. The name of the person is Michael Brian Cotter, 59, who is a resident of California. The companies are ‘Global Digital Concierge’ (Singapore), ‘KeviSoft’ (USA), ‘Sensei Ventures Incorporated’ (USA), and ‘NE Labs’ (USA). All of them are now barred from selling technical-support services or any kind of software via telemarketing or websites.
According to the DoJ announcement, the above entities and others from outside the United States collaborated in a large-scale scheme that has defrauded hundreds of elderly and vulnerable victims in the country. Cotter was determined to have worked with co-conspirators in India since 2011, pushing pop-up messages that falsely claimed to be security alerts from Microsoft to potential victims. The messages made the typical claims about the presence of a virus on the victim’s computer and urged them to call a toll-free number for assistance.
The numbers connected to India-based call centers and agents there convinced the victims to install remote access tools that would supposedly give them the control needed to uproot the malware. The bill at the end was always bloated, somewhere between a few hundred to a couple of thousand USD, depending on the case. Then, the money was split between Cotter and the India-based agents. The 19 domains used for the fraudulent purposes of the tech-support scammers have been transferred under the ownership of the U.S. state, so they will no longer be active.
And as for how the scheme was discovered, Cotter had a complaint with his name filed in October 2020, after Microsoft’s “Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force” team noticed the impersonation online. The FBI was later involved in the investigation, engaging its ‘Legal Attaché’s Office’ in Delhi, India, and forming a strong case for the law enforcement authorities in the U.S. to use for prosecution.
If you are over the age of 60 and suspect defrauding attempts against you, there’s a hotline you can call now in the U.S. set up specifically for these cases: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). Every year, seniors lose billions of USD to these scammers, and it has to stop. If you have an older parent or grandparent, educate them not to pay attention to pop-up messages and set up a reliable internet security/AV solution on their devices.