US court shuts down India-based tech-support scam

Hundreds of elderly defrauded with false pop-up security alerts about computer viruses.

A US federal court has permanently shut down a large-scale technical-support fraud scheme that used India based call centers to allegedly defraud hundreds of elderly and vulnerable US victims of thousands of dollars.

The court in Florida issued an order of permanent injunction against Michael Brian Cotter, 59, of Glendale, California, and four companies in the case investigated with the help of India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

A complaint filed in October 2020 alleged that Cotter worked with unnamed co-conspirators in India from at least 2011 to 2020 to operate a technical-support fraud scheme, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

The scheme allegedly contacted US consumers via internet pop-up messages that falsely appeared to be security alerts from Microsoft or another well-known company.

The pop-up messages fraudulently claimed that the consumer’s computer was infected by a virus, purported to run a scan of the consumer’s computer, falsely confirmed the presence of a virus and malware, and then provided a toll-free number to call for assistance.

READ: Indian convicted of call center fraud to scam Americans out of millions (January 13, 2020)

When victims called the toll-free number, they were connected to India-based call centers participating in the fraud scheme, a Justice Department release said.

Call center workers asked victims to give them remote access to their computers and told victims that they detected viruses or other malware on their computers.

Eventually, the call center workers would falsely diagnose non-existent problems and ask victims to pay hundreds of dollars for unnecessary services and software.

The complaint asserted that Cotter worked with co-conspirators in India to operate the scheme, including registering website domains, setting up shell companies, and entering into relationships with banks and payment processors to facilitate the collection of funds from victims of the scheme.

Individual victims payed hundreds to thousands of dollars to the scheme for unwanted and unnecessary technical-support services, Justice Department said.

Besides Cotter, the court order bars Singapore-registered Global Digital Concierge Pte. Ltd., formerly known as Tech Live Connect Pte. Ltd., Nevada-registered companies Sensei Ventures Incorporated and NE Labs Inc., New York-registered KeviSoft LLC — from selling technical-support services or software via telemarketing or websites.

READ: Indian national behind IRS scam sentenced, faces deportation (January 31, 2016)

Under the terms of the consent decree of permanent injunction, the defendants agreed to be permanently barred from, among other things, offering for sale via telemarketing or website any technical-support service or software and advertising via computer pop-up messages.

The consent decree also transfers ownership of 19 domain names alleged to have been used as part of the technical-support scheme to the US, so that those domains can no longer be used as part of the fraud scheme.

Acknowledging India’s role, Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark said, “The department is grateful for the cooperation of foreign law enforcement, including India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, in investigating, disrupting, and prosecuting technical-support fraud schemes and other schemes originating abroad and directed at the American public.”

The widespread fraud was brought to the attention of the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force by Microsoft, which often is impersonated by those engaged in technical-support fraud schemes.

Justice Department said since President Donald Trump signed the bipartisan Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act (EAPPA) into law, it has participated in hundreds of enforcement actions in criminal and civil cases that targeted or disproportionately affected seniors.

READ MORE:

$15 million fake IRS scam: call centers in India come under the scanner (March 13, 2015)

Indian Americans arrested in IRS phone scam that was being operated from India (December 1, 2017)

Indian American Nilam Parikh pleads guilty of IRS phone scam using Indian call centers (May 19, 2017)

Indian American businessman in Texas Narasimha Bhogavalli arrested in IRS phone scam case (October 28, 2016)

 

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