Tech support scams have been around for over a decade now. If, like me, you’ve experienced one, you’ll know they tend to involve someone claiming to be from a big firm (often Microsoft) calling to issue a warning about a made-up virus that’s been detected on your PC. Their end game is to trick people into buying a fake piece of software to "remove" this imaginary issue, when what it actually does is install some information-stealing malware of its own.
While ransomware such as WannaCry and Petya/NotPetya/PetyaWrap appear to be the preferred method of computer-based extortion these days, tech scammers continue to prey on the less tech-savvy members of society, which typically includes older people.
But in the UK, the City of London Police teamed up with Microsoft to try and take down some of the perpetrators. The BBC reports that following two years of investigations, authorities have just announced the arrest of four people on suspicion of fraud.
While authorities found many of the calls originated from India, they accused the four suspects of being involved in the scam. Those arrested include a 29-year-old man and a 31-year-old woman from Woking in Surrey, and a 37-year-old man and a 35-year-old woman from South Shields, Tyneside.
Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cyber crime reporting center, was also involved in the investigation. It says there were 34,504 computer software services fraud reports over the last financial year, making it the third most commonly reported fraud type. The average age of the victims is 60, and the average loss suffered is £600 ($770).
"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 from City of London Police.
Back in February, one programmer fought back against the phone scammers using an army of bots to overwhelm their call centers.