Two criminal call centres in Kolkata, which were instrumental in defrauding thousands of victims in the UK alone, have been put out of business, in an operation conducted by City of London Police and Microsoft, in cooperation with the Indian police service.
The call centres were raided by fifty officers from the cyber division of the Kolkata Police at 20.30 hours, Kolkata time, on 17 October and seven arrests were made.
Commander Karen Baxter of the City of London Police said:
“These raids and arrests marks the successful culmination of a four year operation. Working with Indian authorities and Microsoft, we have stopped a number of criminal call centres from preying on UK citizens.
“Make no mistake: these companies are the preserve of unscrupulous criminals who will stop at nothing to bleed their victims dry. They are very convincing, tenacious and have developed sophisticated systems in an effort to elude capture.
“But overseas fraudsters should see this as a warning: we will use every tactic in our power to halt your pernicious criminal activities.
“This operation with Indian counterparts and Microsoft, whose good name was being traduced, demonstrates that whilst policing cannot hope to tackle fraud on its own, by working in partnership with businesses, we can achieve some justice for the members of the public who have fallen victim to such schemes.”
Impersonation fraud, such as this, is one of the most prevalent types of fraud. In the 12 months to April 2019, City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) received over 23,500 complaints of this form of fraud. Reported financial losses in the same period were in excess of £9M per year.
Fraudsters call members of the public, claiming to be from Microsoft, and saying that their computer security had been compromised. They would either then sell a worthless piece of software for around £200, or would dupe the victim into allowing access to their computer and any online bank accounts, which they would then drain. It is believed this crime is under-reported by sixty percent.
Hugh Milward, Head of Corporate and Legal Affairs at Microsoft UK, said:
“This sort of deception will not go away and effective public/private partnerships are essential if we are to combat sophisticated cyber criminals who operate on a global scale. We are working with law enforcement, here in the UK and internationally, to tackle these crimes and these arrests are a great result for people who have been targeted by or fallen victim to these fraudsters.
“We’d like to reassure all users of our software that Microsoft will never cold call you out of the blue to offer unsolicited tech support. The best way to report these scams is via the Action Fraud website”
People can protect themselves from this type of fraud by following official advice:
- Always check out callers, especially cold callers who claim to be Microsoft, your telephony provider or internet service provider.
- Legitimate organisations will encourage you to call back via a number you’ve obtained from a trustworthy source.
- Do not assume that the number displayed on your phone is accurate, these can be spoofed, leading you to believe that the caller is in the UK or from a trusted organisation.
- Don’t call phone numbers on pop-up messages which indicate there is a problem with your computer.
- Never download software on the instructions of a cold caller and do not allow remote access to your computer.
- Install virus protection software or ensure that you’re making the best use of any built in security tools.
- Report any of these approaches to Action Fraud. Make a note of any phone numbers, email addresses, websites provided by the callers. You should also record the names they give: a full intelligence built from reports is integral to stopping these operations.