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Indian Phone Scammers Pose as Microsoft Technicians, Plant Malware Across U.K.

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Kolkata may be the land of elaborate Durga Pujas, cinematic legend Satyajit Ray and coronary-inducing kati rolls, but the Eastern Indian metropolis is also the land of a virulent phone scam that's been quietly making its way around the world for the past two years.

As the Guardian reports, a group of scam artists based out of the former Indian capital have been calling random households, and posing as Microsoft technicians. The callers typically claim that they've detected a major problem with their victims' PC and say that if the issue isn't remedied, the computer will be rendered unusable. With a heavy Indian accent, the scammers then direct their targets to their computers, where they ask them to open 'Windows Event Viewer,' which displays a long list of technical jargon that, to the layperson, might look worrisome. The "technicians" instruct users how to fix the non-existent problem by directing them to a website and asking them to install "preventative" software (which, of course, costs £185, or about $283). If the user falls for it and installs the malware then, he or she instantly gives the scammers complete access to data on the computer.

After investigating the scam, the Guardian discovered that the criminals, working under a man based in Rajasthan, were using a simple phone book to find their targets. Although many victims have spoken out about the virus in Web forums, the U.K. has so far been unable to help, since the callers have been using voice-to-Internet services like Skype to place the calls, and because payments made with debit cards are impossible to reclaim. Services like PayPal and AlertPay, meanwhile, have shut down accounts associated with the scam.

Microsoft, for its part, told the Guardian, "[We are] currently investigating a series of instances in which the business practices of an organization within the Microsoft Partner Network have given rise to significant concerns from a number of sources. We take matters such as these extremely seriously and will take any action that is appropriate once our investigation is complete." In a statement on its website, Microsoft reminded users that the company "does not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer," adding that, "If you receive an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft Tech Support, hang up." [From: TheGuardian]

Tags: computer, India, Kolkata, malware, Microsoft, scam, ScamArtist, scams, ScamsAndFrauds, security, TechSupport, top