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Gurugram cyber fraud case: 15 held for duping users in Microsoft’s name

Microsoft had alleged that fake call centres from at least eight locations in the city were duping unsuspecting users based in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada in the garb of proving “technical support” using Microsoft’s name.

gurgaon Updated: Nov 30, 2018 15:02 IST
Pavneet Singh Chadha
Pavneet Singh Chadha
Hindustan Times, Gurugram
gurugram,cyber fraud,fake call centres
The police have seized phones, hard disks, servers and electronic hardware from the call centres in Gurugram. (HT Photo )

Two days after software giant Microsoft Corporation (India) Private Limited filed a complaint with the Gurugram police alleging a cyber fraud by city-based call centres, the police registered nine first information reports across five police stations in the city and arrested 15 people after conducting raids at eight call centres.

Microsoft had alleged that fake call centres from at least eight locations in the city were duping unsuspecting users based in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada in the garb of proving “technical support” using Microsoft’s name. Three cases were lodged in sector 18, two cases in Sadar and one each in Udyog Vihar, Sushant Lok, sector 50 and Cyber police station.

The police said that preliminary probe had revealed that the fake call centres would charge anywhere between 200-550 USD for a “technical support” service application from a user who had called in to report a security risk bug.

“The call centres, through an exhaustive database of IP addresses and email ids, hacked into the computer systems of people based in foreign countries. The users would receive emails with fake pop-up error messages prompting a security risk that a malware had infected their computer systems and if not rectified immediately, the personal and financial details of the users were at the risk of being compromised,” said a police official from the crime branch, requesting anonymity.

The police said when the panicked users would call up the hotline numbers mentioned on the locked screens of their computers, the call centre staff, claiming to be from Microsoft, would persuade the users to install applications for a fee ranging between 200-550 USD.

“The unsuspecting people were coerced into paying for such ‘bogus’ anti malware applications, which would also serve as a bug and give remote control of victims’ computers to the accused. The probe suggests that money was the prime reason for the fraud,” said the official.

The police said that after Microsoft conducted an internal investigation and shared its action reports with the police, the police had conducted raids at eight locations on Tuesday late night, arresting 15 people and seizing 83 hard drives, several laptops and electronic gadgets.

The police said the owners of six call centres were arrested and the rest are at large.

“In one of the cases, four accused were bailed out and in the case registered at cyber police station, two accused were taken on police remand for a day,” said a crime branch official.

The police ruled out a common link of the fraud being perpetrated by any one entity despite several call centres using a similar method to con people.

“We have found a ‘brokers list’ during the raids but no conclusive evidence has come forth that money extorted was transmitted via hawala channels as alleged. The magnitude of the fraud is still not certain. The cyber cell is continuing the probe,” said a crime branch official.

The police said the accused persons working at the fake call centres were either graduates or people who had done professional courses in software technology after matriculation.

“One of them has a post graduate degree. The accused people are natives of the city, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, aged 25-30, and well versed in voice and accent training. In certain cases, the owners of these centres had employed a staff of at least 30 people who claimed to have no knowledge of the alleged fraud and were under the impression of working for Microsoft or other outsourcing firms,” said Shamsher Singh, assistant commissioner of police, (ACP) crime, adding that the accused did not have a criminal background or any association with Microsoft in the past.

Six crime teams and two teams from police stations conducted co-ordinated raids on November 27 late night at Udyog Vihar, Sushant Lok, sector 49, sector 18, sector 32, sector 38, sector 44 and sector 10.

Subhash Boken, spokesperson, Gurugram police said the raids were conducted after the complainant had handed over a list of locations of the fake call centres from IP addresses.

“The raids continued through the night lasting for over five hours. Police have seized phones, hard disks, servers and electronic hardware from the centres. Currently, the cases are being investigated at different police stations but it is likely that cyber police station would take over the investigation as the probe continues,” said Boken.

First Published: Nov 30, 2018 11:37 IST