A US court has ordered the permanent shut down of a technical-support fraud scheme, masterminded by an American citizen and operated through call centres in India, that allegedly defrauded hundreds of elderly and vulnerable Americans.
The US Justice Department said on Tuesday the District Court entered the order of permanent injunction against Michael Brian Cotter, 59, of Glendale, California, and four companies Singapore-registered Global Digital Concierge, Nevada-registered companies Sensei Ventures Incorporated and NE Labs Inc, and New York-registered Kevisoft from selling technical-support services or software via telemarketing or websites.
“The department is committed to protecting vulnerable Americans, particularly America’s seniors, from those who seek to steal their hard-earned savings,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark for the Civil Division.
The Justice Department thanked India’s Central Bureau of Investigation for disrupting and prosecuting the scheme.
“The department is grateful for the cooperation of foreign law enforcement, including India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, in investigating, disrupting, and prosecuting technical-support fraud schemes and other schemes originating abroad and directed at the American public, said Clark, who also thanked the Legal Attache’s Office in Delhi for their substantial coordination efforts.
The complaint filed in October 2020 alleged that Cotter worked with co-conspirators in India from at least 2011 to 2020 to operate a technical-support fraud scheme, under which US consumers were contacted via internet pop-up messages that falsely appeared to be security alerts from Microsoft or another well-known company.
The pop-up messages fraudulently claimed that the consumer’s computer was infected by a virus, purported to run a scan of the consumer’s computer, falsely confirmed the presence of a virus and malware, and then provided a toll-free number to call for assistance.
The Justice Department said that when victims called the toll-free number, they were connected to India-based call centers participating in the fraud scheme.
Call center workers asked victims to give them remote access to their computers and told victims that they detected viruses or other malware on their computers.
Eventually, the call center workers would falsely diagnose non-existent problems and ask victims to pay hundreds of dollars for unnecessary services and software.
The complaint asserted that Cotter worked with co-conspirators in India to operate the scheme, including registering website domains, setting up shell companies, and entering into relationships with banks and payment processors to facilitate the collection of funds from victims of the scheme.
Individual victims paid hundreds to thousands of dollars to the scheme for unwanted and unnecessary technical-support services.
Under the terms of the consent decree of permanent injunction, the defendants agreed to be permanently barred from, among other things, offering for sale via telemarketing or website any technical-support service or software and advertising via computer pop-up messages.
The consent decree also transfers ownership of 19 domain names alleged to have been used as part of the technical-support scheme to the United States, so that those domains can no longer be used as part of the fraud scheme.
The widespread fraud allegedly committed, in this case, was brought to the attention of the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force by Microsoft, which often is impersonated by those engaged in technical-support fraud schemes.