Four scammers masquerading as Microsoft technicians were arrested yesterday by the City of London Police for extorting millions of pounds from unsuspecting victims.
The arrests were made soon after the City of London Police teamed up with Microsoft and international partners to prevent scammers from targeting new victims.
Back in May, it came to light that a group of several scammers claiming to be technicians at Microsoft contacted gullible users to claim that they could help the latter ward off ransomware attacks on their computers. With users' permissions, the scammers then gained root access to their systems and charged money for installing anti-virus software which was available for free.
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“These arrests are just the beginning of our work, making the best use of specialist skills and expertise from Microsoft, local police forces and international partners to tackle a crime that often targets the most vulnerable in our society,” said Commander Dave Clark, City of London Police and National Co-ordinator for Economic Crime.
According to the police, victims of the scam suffered an average loss of £600 and were mostly senior citizens with limited knowledge of computing. The real count of victims of the scam could also be higher than what the police know since several victims may not have reported the crime.
Recently, Cleveland Police was contacted by a Teeside resident who was conned out of £320 by hackers claiming to install an antivirus software which was otherwise available for free. The victim had encountered a pop-up window on their system which warned that the system was affected by WannaCry Ransomware and that the resident had to call a number to receive assistance.
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Spammers have often used similar techniques to extort money from gullible victims who have little knowledge of cyber-crimes or cyber-security practices and tend to trust what they encounter online. Jeremy Swinfen Green, Head of Consulting at TEISS, believes that trust, or rather inappropriate trust, is a huge issue online and one that cyber security professionals have difficulties in combating.
"The number one rule is to be sceptical. If something doesn't look right online, then check it out rather than trusting it blindly. A simple online search using some words from any suspicious message (in "quote marks") may reveal that your suspicions are correct. You should also look out for phrasing that seems odd," said Green.
Following the recent arrests, Microsoft UK's Director of Corporate, External and Legal Affairs also reassured customers that the company never makes calls out of the blue not does it use tech support pop-ups on websites.