Tech support fraud leader is arrested; thousands of people were scammed off for $30 million USD

A joint investigation by the authorities in India and the United States led to the dismantling of a tech support fraud network allegedly led by an American citizen, who had obtained about $30 million illegally.

Michael Brian Cotter, based in Glendale, California, would have worked with various accomplices at call centers in India for nearly ten years to defraud U.S. citizens, mainly elderly and retired, mentions the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) report.

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Simultaneously, the Central Bureau of Investigation of India (CBI) filed a complaint in a Florida court after collecting millions of rupees obtained illegally by six companies in Delhi, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. These companies were raided by the CBI a few weeks ago. The agency is also working with authorities in other countries to investigate this group of scammers, accused of taking control of multiple computer equipment remotely using phishing campaigns and malware infections.

In addition, CBI officials mention that the agency would continue its close collaboration with the FBI, also promoting cooperation with law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and other cybercrime and computer security jurisdictions. A U.S. federal court issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting Cotter and five companies from continuing to participate in this support fraud scheme.

Authorities mention that the fraudulent scheme was to contact potential victims through pop-ups on websites that hackers passed through security alerts from Microsoft or other recognized companies around the world. These messages mentioned to users that their computer computers had undergone a security analysis by which malware was detected.

The message included a telephone number to request technical assistance at an Indian-based call center, where employees requested remote access to the victim’s computer equipment, where employees confirmed the existence of the alleged malware and then charged for false technical support and unnecessary security software.

Cotter, singled out by the Indian and U.S. authorities as the individual behind the entire scheme, would have facilitated the deployment of this plan through various companies, including some registered in New York and London. The American authorities dismantled this operation altogether, including fraudulent websites and some phone numbers.

The individual has already been arrested and is awaiting his sentence.