India’s premier investigative agency Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has been appluaded by the US Department of Justice for taking simultaneous action against several companies for transmitting pop-ups to the victims’ personal computers with warnings or bogus messages about serious technical problems including malware infections and defrauding US citizens.
On Thursday, in Washington, the USDOJ in a statement lauding the effort of CBI said, “In an unprecedented collaborative effort, the CBI in India took actions in parallel with today’s filing against corporate and individual participants in the scheme located in Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, and Jaipur. CBI, India’s federal investigative agency, took note of the international fraud being perpetrated by these companies operating from various locations in India.”
It said that through coordinated search operations were conducted at the offices of these companies and at the residences of the directors of the entities. According to CBI, incriminating digital evidence related to the scheme was collected and seized during the searches.
“The Department of Justice sincerely appreciates the CBI’s efforts to disrupt and prosecute technical-support fraud, government imposter fraud, and all other schemes directed at the American public,” it said.
The CBI has registered a case in September this year on a complaint against six private companies Softwill Infotech Pvt Ltd, Innovana Thinklabs Ltd, Jaipur, Benovellient Technologies Pvt Ltd, Noida, Systweak Software Pvt Ltd, Jaipur, Saburi TLC Worldwide Services Pvt Ltd, Saburi Global Services Pvt Ltd, Gurugram and unknown others on a complaint, alleged to be involved in technical support fraud scheme.
After registering the case, the CBI on September 17 carried out searches at 10 locations in Rajasthan’s Jaipur, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh’s Noida and Mainpuri, Haryana’s Gurugram and Faridabad at the premises of these companies and the residential premises of other persons.
A CBI spokesperson in Delhi said that the agency has recovered digital evidences, various incriminating documents and also bank accounts, fixed deposits etc worth Rs 190 crore, cash of Rs 25 lakh, gold valued at Rs 55 lakh during searches conducted recently.
The spokesperson said that it was alleged that these companies would contact the victims 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. It would then run a scan on the consumer’s computer, falsely confirming the presence of a virus and malware. A toll free number would be given, where the victim will contact, and call would land up in their call centres,” the spokesperson said.
He said that these companies would then take remote access of the victim’s computer and would convince the victim of presence of non-existing problems and then would make them pay hundreds of dollars for unnecessary services and softwares.
“Many of these irrelevant software were also developed by the companies under investigation,” the official said.
The official further said that CBI is collaborating with its counterparts in other countries to identify the network, dismantle their infrastructure and bring the perpetrators of crime to justice.
He said, “US Department of Justice (USDOJ) and CBI collaborated in this regard, and yesterday US Federal court ordered an individual and five companies to stop engaging in technical-support fraud scheme that is alleged to have defrauded hundreds of elderly and vulnerable US victims.”
The CBI official said, according to USDOJ, Michael Brian Cotter, 59, of Glendale, California, knowingly provided US support for India-based accomplices in furtherance of the fraud.
“The said person facilitated the scheme through several companies, including at Singapore. The temporary restraining order issued by the US court dismantles these defendants’ US infrastructure, such as websites and payment processing relationships, and prohibits the defendants from continuing to facilitate the alleged scheme,” he added.