The perpetrators of an online tech-support fraud scheme, originally brought to the attention of U.S. authorities by Microsoft, have been shut down by a federal court for allegedly trying to scam hundreds of elderly and vulnerable victims, the Department of Justice announced Tuesday.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida issued an order of permanent injunction against Michael Brian Cotter, 59, of Glendale, Calif., and four companies: 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.; and New York registered KeviSoft LLC.
The order bars all from selling technical-support services or software via telemarketing or websites.
According to a DOJ news release, the complaint filed in October alleged that Cotter worked with co-conspirators in India from at least 2011 to 2020 to operate a technical-support fraud scheme. U.S. consumers were contacted via internet pop-up messages that falsely appeared to be security alerts from Microsoft or another well-known company. From the release:
The 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 centers participating in the fraud scheme. Call center workers asked victims to give them remote access to their computers and told victims that they detected viruses or other malware on their computers. Eventually, the call center workers would falsely diagnose non-existent problems and ask victims to pay hundreds of dollars for unnecessary services and software.
Cotter and others registered website domains, set up shell companies, and entered into relationships with banks and payment processors to facilitate the collection of hundreds to thousands of dollars from victims of the scheme, for unwanted and unnecessary tech-support services.
Microsoft, which the DOJ said is often impersonated by those engaged in such schemes, is credited with bringing the crime to the attention of the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force. The joint law enforcement effort was established in June 2019 to investigate and prosecute individuals and entities associated with foreign-based fraud schemes that disproportionately affect American seniors.