India,US authorities take action against a fraud scheme targeting ‘elderly’ in the US

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

INDIAN and US authorities have started investigation into a fraud scheme operated from call centres in India targeting elderly in the US.

India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the US Department of Justice took simultaneous actions against a technical support fraud scheme, officials said.

California-native Michael Brian Cotter, 59, has provided support to his accomplices in India in furtherance of the scheme, the US Justice Department said in a statement.

In response to a complaint filed in the US, a federal court has ordered Cotter and five companies to stop engaging in the technical-support fraud scheme, which allegedly defrauded hundreds of elderly and vulnerable American victims, it said.

The complaint was filed by the civil division’s consumer protection branch and the US attorney’s office for the southern district of Florida.

Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force, established last year to combat foreign fraud schemes targeting senior citizens in the US, has coordinated the action.

According to the complaint, the defendants’ scheme contacted US consumers 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, purported to run a scan of the consumer’s computer, falsely confirmed the presence of a virus and malware, and then provided a toll-free number to call for assistance.

When victims called the toll-free number, they were connected to India-based call centres participating in the fraud scheme.

Call centre employees asked victims to give them remote access to their computers and told them that they detected viruses or other malware.

Then, the employees falsely diagnosed non-existent problems and allegedly asked the victims to pay hundreds of dollars for unnecessary services and software.

Cotter allegedly facilitated the scheme through several companies, including Singapore-registered Global Digital Concierge Pte Ltd, formerly known as Tech Live Connect Pte Ltd, Nevada-registered companies Sensei Ventures Incorporated and NE Labs Inc, New York-registered Kevisoft LLC, and UK-registered Kevisoft UK Ltd.

The restraining order issued by the court dismantled the US-based infrastructure, including websites and payment processing relationships.

India’s CBI registered a criminal case against five companies involved in the scheme and conducted an investigation to identify and locate the perpetrators of the crime, the statement further said.

“In an unprecedented collaborative effort, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in India took actions in parallel against corporate and individual participants in the scheme located in Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, and Jaipur.”

According to CBI, incriminating digital evidence related to the scheme was collected and seized during the searches..

“CBI has been making concerted efforts to identify and rapidly dismantle any network of transnational cyber frauds operated out of India,” officials said.