Cutting corners: Amazon and Microsoft have collaborated with India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to bust fake tech support centers that affected over 2,000 of their customers, mainly in the United States. These fraudulent agents deployed pop-up messages to deceive victims by alleging non-existent PC issues and then persuading them to make payments to have those problems fixed.
Recently, India's federal enforcement agency disclosed that they had executed several raids aimed at curbing organized cyber-enabled financial offenses. The operation, dubbed "Chakra-II," emerged from a joint crime referral supported by both Amazon and Microsoft. It spanned five unique cases and covered 76 locations across multiple states: Delhi, West Bengal, Kerala, Haryana, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh.
In the wake of the operation, the investigative body seized 32 mobile phones, 33 SIM cards, multiple USB flash drives, 48 laptops/hard disks, and snapshots of two servers. They also froze several bank accounts and seized 15 email accounts.
CBI LAUNCHES OPERATION CHAKRA-II TO COMBAT AND DISMANTLE ORGANIZED CYBER ENABLED FINANCIAL CRIMES;– Central Bureau of Investigation (India) (@CBIHeadquarters) October 19, 2023
DURING NATIONWIDE CRACKDOWN, SEARCHES CONDUCTED AT AROUND 76 LOCATIONS; LARGE NUMBER OF DIGITAL GADGETS INCLUDING LAPTOPs, HARD DISC ETC RECOVERED pic.twitter.com/0Jx1DdQ2o9
This national crackdown promoted intelligence sharing with the CBI, bringing to light two cases of international tech support fraud where the accused operated several call centers across five states, masquerading as technical support representatives.
These illicit call centers were designed to mimic Microsoft and Amazon customer support, targeting over 2,000 customers primarily in the United States but also in other countries like Spain, Australia, Germany, Canada, and the UK.
The agency stated that this tech support scam had been ongoing for approximately five years. The fraudsters utilized multiple international payment gateways and channels to move their funds. Victims were presented with pop-up messages seemingly originating from Microsoft or other genuine tech vendors, claiming their computers had technical issues. These messages contained toll-free numbers, which allowed the fraudsters to impersonate tech support representatives to later access the victims' computers remotely. The culprits then manipulated the unsuspecting users to make payments for the non-existing problems.
The FBI notes that scams involving tech support and government impersonation result in losses exceeding $1 billion annually. A significant portion of these scams originates from call centers in South Asia, predominantly India.
This crackdown marks the inaugural collaboration between the two tech giants to challenge such criminal endeavors. Microsoft states that its cooperation with law enforcement agencies has already disrupted tech support fraud, leading to over 30 call center raids and more than 100 arrests. The tech firm encourages other entities to join this collective effort against these illicit practices.
Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) specializes in probing tech support fraud and liaises with law enforcement accordingly. In contrast, Amazon offers a platform for users to report suspicious communication directly to them. As tech-enabled fraud remains a threat to both companies, their partnership might symbolize a sustained pledge to tackle these continually evolving and proliferating scams.
Image credit: DCstudio