The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Delhi Police have assisted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in busting a major scam, which duped thousands of the U.S., and Canadian citizens over the past decade on the pretext of providing remote tech-support.
According to a U.S. Department of Justice statement, five men were charged in an indictment and a New Jersey woman pleaded guilty in connection with a trans-national technical support scam that targeted more than 20,000 victims, many of whom were elderly, in the U.S. and Canada. The fraud ring generated over $10 million in proceeds.
Accused Gagan Lamba (41) and Harshad Madaan (34), both from Delhi; Jayant Bhatia (33) of Ontario, Canada, and Vikash Gupta (33) from Faridabad in Haryana, have been charged by indictment with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit computer fraud, and substantive violations of wire fraud and computer fraud. Gagan, Harshad, Jayant and one Kulwinder Singh (34) from New York have also been accused of money laundering and associated offences.
Harshad was arrested on December 14 and Vikas on the next day, on the allegation of being involved in the “tech support” scheme. U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger thanked the CBI and the Delhi Police for their assistance in making the arrests. Gagan is yet to be arrested, while Jayant was arrested by the Canadian authorities on request from their U.S. counterparts. Kulwinder was arrested in New York and released on $1 lakh unsecured bond. Accused Meghna Kumar (50) has pleaded guilty.
The accused persons gained access to the personal computers of victims. “They frequently preyed upon senior citizens and scared them into paying for unnecessary and useless computer repair services..,” said the statement, adding that the primary objective was to trick the victims into believing that their personal computers were infected with a virus or malware and then convince them to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for repair services.
Explaining the modus operandi, it said the gang caused “fraudulent pop-up windows” to appear on the victims’ personal computers.
“The pop-ups were designed, at times, to “freeze” the victims’ computers, which prevented them from using or accessing files on their computers. The pop-ups also claimed, falsely, that the victims’ computers were infected with a virus, or otherwise compromised, and directed them to call a telephone number to receive technical support,” it said. The victims who called the phone numbers were connected to one or more call centres in India associated with the gang.
The call receivers would convince the victims into allowing them to remotely access their computers and would, at times, download and run a freely available “adblocker” tool and then claim to have resolved the issue, for which the victims were charged huge amounts.