Four people have been arrested in the UK and charged with running a tech support scam posing as Microsoft technical support personnel.
The arrests follow a two-year investigation conducted by Microsoft and the British police force, according to security researcher Graham Cluley, writing on ESET's We Live Security blog.
The gang is charged with calling targets via telephone and duping them into believing that their computers have been infected with malware. Another version of the scam involves the fraudsters loading a popup on victims' computer screens warning them to call a number. In each case, the victim believes they are calling “Microsoft Technical Support,” or another affiliate company.
The scam artists are effective in getting their victims to believing that “Warning” or “Error” messages appearing in Windows Event Viewer's application logs are evidence that their computer has been infected, Cluley explained.
At that point the victims hand over their payment details for an instant repair or, in some instances, allow the attackers to remotely access their PC.
While so-called "scam calls" are believed to most often originate in India, those involved in this roundup were residing in England – two in Surrey and two in Tyneside.
“Unfortunately, the names of reputable companies, like Microsoft, are often used by criminals to lull victims into a false sense of security," Microsoft's Hugh Milward said in a statement. "That's why we partnered with the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau to track these people down and bring them to justice.”
He added that Microsoft would never cold call users or employ tech support pop-ups.