Duo Indicted in $10m Tech Support Scam Case

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Two individuals have been indicted as part of a crackdown on a $10m tech support scam operation.

Romana Leyva and Ariful Haque have now been charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which could land them with a maximum 40 years each behind bars, according to an unsealed indictment.

It alleges that the fraud ring operated a classic tech support scam campaign targeting mainly elderly computer users.

After seeing pop-ups appear on their screens warning of a serious virus infection, they were urged to call a tech support number. Often these windows were branded with legitimate corporate logos to enhance legitimacy.

Doing so would take them through to an Indian call center, where operatives would use remote access tools to investigate the ‘problem’ before charging a fee — one-time, one-year or lifetime — to the victim and installing free anti-virus on their machine.

Around 7500 North American victims were scammed in this way, losing hundreds or thousands of dollars each.

In some cases, the fraudsters came back for more, claiming the original company that promised to provide tech support was going out of business and they wanted to refund the victim.

During this 'refund' process, they claimed to have reimbursed the victim too much money by accidentally adding an extra zero onto the amount. They then demanded the victim reimbursed them to the tune of thousands of dollars via gift cards, according to the indictment.

Nevada resident Leyva and New York-based Haque are accused of creating multiple fake companies to receive the fraudulently obtained funds, and of recruiting others to do so.

The scheme is said to have lasted from at least March 2015 to December 2018.

A report from Microsoft last year revealed that 63% of consumers globally experienced a tech support scam, down slightly from 68% in 2016.

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