An Indian-origin man in north England has been sentenced to 28 months in jail for his role in a computer scam worth hundreds of thousands of pounds perpetuated by IT operatives based in the Delhi region, Britain’s cyber-crime officials said.
The fraud involved individuals calling victims in the UK by claiming to represent software major Microsoft and informing them that there is a problem with their computer. They were told the issue could be resolved for a fee deposited in a UK-based bank account.
Baljinder Singh, 39, held the bank account and after helping steal £400,000 from victims, would transfer the money to India after taking a cut. He was arrested from South Shields, north England, in 2017 and has now been jailed for 28 months at the Newcastle crown court.
It is one of a growing number of cases reported to British cyber-crime authorities, many linked to India.
Last week, the Daily Mail reported an investigation on India-based call centres netting millions of pounds by preying on Britons by threatening them action for non-existent tax debts or whose computers are compromised while servicing faults through remote access.
Singh, charged with money-laundering, was part of the scam that included taking money from the victims, but instead of fixing any problem, they would install malicious software on the computer that would allow them to steal more money, officials said.
“Enquiries found that the fraudsters were based in the Delhi region of India but they were asking victims to transfer money to a UK based bank account. The City of London Police identified Singh as the owner of the account and detectives…later found he was transferring the cash back to Delhi, while taking a cut for himself”, the police said.
Detective constable Andrew Smith of cyber-crime team said: “It is an international operation and Baljinder Singh was one cog in the machine that committed frauds to the tune of millions of pounds”.
“He acted as the money man and used his accounts to pass the proceeds of the fraud back to these conmen based overseas…It is worth noting that this investigation was greatly helped by the co-operation of Microsoft and their commitment to securing justice for victims of crime”.
New figures from the City of London Police, which is the apex UK body dealing with cyber crime, victims lost £34.6 million between April and September 2018, amounting to an increase of 24% from the previous six-month period.
Abrahim Bakhtiar of Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit said: “We work closely with law enforcement both here in the UK and internationally to tackle this kind of fraud and we have recently expanded our cyber security programme to further safeguard our customers.
“We’d like to reassure all users of our products that Microsoft will never cold call you out of the blue. If you receive an unsolicited tech support call or pop up from anyone claiming to be from Microsoft or representing Microsoft then it is a scam.”