A U.K. man who orchestrated fraudulent Microsoft tech support calls has been sentenced to fines and jail time as part of a concerted international effort to crack down on tech support call scams.
Mohammed Khalid Jamil, who ran the Luton, England-based company SmartSupportGuys, was convicted of hiring workers at a call center in India to impersonate Microsoft tech support and scam Microsoft customers into giving the fraudsters remote access to their computers. The impersonators would then infect their victims’ computers with malware before convincing the customer to pay for anti-malware software that is otherwise available for free on Microsoft’s website.
Jamil previously ran a similar company called Online PC Masters, which closed down in 2010 before facing legal action.
Callers claimed to be “Microsoft-certified” engineers and typically charged between £35 and £150 (US$58-$249) to install the free software, often preying on elderly customers.
The U.K. National Trading Standards Board eCrime unit called the decision a “landmark case,” and the first successful U.K. prosecution of someone involved in the Microsoft call scam. Jamil was sentenced to four months in prison, though the sentence is suspended for 12 months while he pays a £5,000 ($8,312) fine, along with £5,665 ($9,418) compensation to the scam’s victims and £13,929 ($23,156) in prosecution costs.
This marks the first legal action taken against Microsoft scammers since October 2012, when the U.S. Federal Trade Commission shut down and charged six tech support scams originating from Indian call centers impersonating Microsoft and other U.S. tech company personnel. Since then, a new wave of fraudulent calls has begun plaguing Microsoft customers in the U.S. and U.K. The Indian authorities have not engaged police or legal action against the originating call centers.
The Microsoft Safety and Security Center acknowledges the tech support scams, and has made available information on how the impersonators operate, how customers can protect themselves, and what to do if you’ve already given your information to fraudsters.