In late November, Microsoft alongside 100 local law enforcement officials in Gurgaon, India took down 16 call centers engaging in those annoying tech support scams.
According to an interview with Senior Superintendent of Police Ajay Pal Sharma by The New York Times, "the scammers had extracted money from thousands of victims, most of whom were American or Canadian."
While much of the on-the-ground work is credited to the lawmen and women of Gurgaon and Noida, the initial process can presumably be traced back to when Microsoft opened its Report a Scam online portal back in 2014.
The Report a Scam portal allows victims to share their stories of tech support fraud directly with Microsoft's Digital Crime Unit (DCU). According to Microsoft, the reports have been "a critical starting point for our international investigations and referrals."
Leveraging the information gleaned from victims stories, Microsoft puts in referrals to law enforcement based on a combination of tools and efforts from its own data analytics and innovation team identifying 150,000 suspicious pop-ups daily.
Earlier this year, Microsoft published a detailed security report that highlighted a 24 percent rise in tech support scams over the previous year. Highlighted scams implored tactics ranging from browser-enabled malware to straightforward fraudulent phone spamming.
In its security report, Microsoft also offered a list of warnings and preventative measures everyone should take to avoid being sucked into a tech center scam.
- Be wary of any unsolicited phone call or pop-up message on your device.
- Microsoft will never proactively reach out to you to provide unsolicited PC or technical support. Any communication we have with you must be initiated by you.
- Do not call the phone number in a pop-up window on your device and be cautious about clicking on notifications asking you to scan your computer or download software. Many scammers try to fool you into thinking their notifications are legitimate.
- Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you can confirm that it is a legitimate representative of a computer support team with whom you are already a customer.
- If skeptical, take the person’s information down and immediately report it to your local authorities.
In addition to Microsoft's observational study and issued warnings, the company is looking to take a more direct approach to combat call center scams, who frequently use the company's brand as an authoritative point of entry into a victims life, by teaming with local authorities to investigate, apprehend and thwart further fraudulent activities.
Understanding that the average tech support scam can cost a victim anywhere between $150 - $499 unrecoverable dollars, Microsoft is also working tirelessly to include built-in protections in Windows 10 to fortify its unsuspecting users. Windows 10 currently emplores safer authentication methods than previous, SmartScreen filters applied to Internet Explorer and Edge that help to mitigate malicious pop-ups and Windows releases that offer continuous support updates over the lifespan of a device.