A North Carolina man has pleaded guilty to his part in a global tech support scam conspiracy which netted over $3 million in profits from unsuspected computer users.
Bishap Mittal, 24, from Charlotte, worked with an unnamed individual who owns Capstone Technologies, a firm which appears to have been set up with the scam in mind.
They purchased and distributed adware to users’ machines, according to the Department of Justice. These caused fake pop-ups to appear, warning the victim that their PC was suffering serious technical issues that they must call a number for Capstone Technologies immediately to resolve.
The number routed to a call center in India operated by Mittal and his partner and set up specifically to handle tech support scams.
Once on the phone, the victim would be persuaded to download a remote access tool (RAT).
“Once in control of the computers, the scammers identified various fictitious causes for the victims’ purported computer malfunction, including the presence of malware or computer viruses, and induced victims to pay for virus clean-up or other tech support services,” the DoJ notice explained.
“The co-conspirators then charged victims between $200 and $2400 to make computers operable again.”
The number of tech support scam victims has actually fallen in recent years, but not by much, according to Microsoft.
A report from the computing giant last year revealed that 63% of consumers globally experienced a tech support scam, down from 68% in 2016, while those who lost money fell from 6% to 3%.
The report said that fewer pop-up ads and windows have reduced consumer exposure to the scams. However, in the UK, 62% said they’d experienced a scam, with 6% losing money — an increase from 2% in 2016.