Amazon and Microsoft are partnering with CBI to crack down on multiple tech support call centers scams across India. These call centers target customers of Amazon and Microsoft, two of the largest companies in the tech industry, and have defrauded more than 2,000 Amazon and Microsoft customers, mainly in the US.
Fake Amazon and Microsoft call centers busted
Indian authorities, in collaboration with Amazon and Microsoft, conducted Operation Chakra-II to crackdown on 76 illegal call centers across at least 11 states in India. These call centers posed as tech support for Amazon and Microsoft customers and defrauded over 2,000 individuals. This marks the first time two major companies have collaborated to combat online and tech support fraud. The Central Bureau of Investigation of India (CBI) led the Chakra-II operation.
On the other hand, Amazon said this:
Perhaps almost every user has seen the “Hello Your Computer Has Virus” meme or jokes about Indian men calling people and introducing themselves as Microsoft tech support. So, India is a fertile ground for a thriving network of scammers. The Hindu tech support scam can be considered a worthy competitor to the Nigerian Prince scam. Primarily, scammers run illegal operations from call centers masquerading as legitimate businesses.
According to the FBI, tech support call centers fraud victims lost more than $1 billion in the US last year, with scammers mainly targeting older people. Nearly half of the victims were over 60, and they accounted for 69%, or more than $724 million, of the losses. Many of these scams target customers of Amazon and Microsoft, two of the largest companies in the tech industry. Unsurprisingly, these companies have banded together for the first time to fight against these scams.
How did this scam work?
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) recently revealed that fraudsters have been pretending to be Amazon and Microsoft customer service agents. They have been contacting victims through online pop-up messages that appear to be real security alerts from these companies. The pop-up message claims that the user’s computer is experiencing technical issues and provides a toll-free number to contact customer support. However, the phone number actually belongs to the fraudsters’ electronic call centers. By the way, we have an article dedicated to breaking down this scam scheme.
Once the victim calls scammers, they, with some trickery, remotely access the victim’s computer and show them fake problems. They then charge the victim hundreds of dollars for fake solutions that were not needed in the first place. This fraudulent activity has allegedly been going on for the past five years. The fraudsters use various international payment gateways and channels to move the illegally obtained funds.
CBI exposes fake call centers
As part of five separate cases, a nationwide crackdown was conducted in Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal, which resulted in the confiscation of 32 mobile phones, 48 laptops/hard disks, 33 SIM cards, and pen drives. The operation also seized numerous bank accounts alongside 15 email accounts that were associated with the scammer network.
While the CBI did not disclose the number of arrests made during the operation, it was revealed that the illegal call centers had targeted more than 2,000 Amazon and Microsoft customers. The victims primarily reside in the US, Australia, Canada, Germany, Spain, and the UK. Amazon also confirmed that it had removed over 20,000 phishing websites and 10,000 phone numbers from impersonation schemes in 2022. The company reported hundreds of attackers worldwide to authorities.
Is it the end of Amazon/Microsoft Tech Support scams?
Not really. Frauds like that are exceptionally profitable, so there will always be a temptation to restart it. Sure, current con actors are detained, but nature abhors a vacuum. Where one group of crooks is no more – another will pop up rather quickly.
Though, the impunity myth these guys were bearing on is now busted. Further scams will be either more concealed, distributed, and/or reliant on less traceable technologies. Will they be more effective with all these upgrades? This is what we are about to discover.