North Yorkshire Team Catches "Microsoft" Con Man
4:53pm 31st March 2014
A national e-crime team, based in North Yorkshire and York, has brought what is believed to be the first ever successful prosecution in the UK of a defendant involved in a ‘Microsoft’ computer scam.
On Friday 28 March, at York Crown Court, the defendant, Mr Mohammed Khalid Jamil, was sentenced to four months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, and fined £5,000. Jamil was also ordered to pay £5,665 in compensation to his victims and £13,929 in prosecution costs.
Specialist e-crime investigators from the National Trading Standards eCrime Team based with City of York Council and working closely with ActionFraud and colleagues in Redcar and Cleveland Trading Standards, helped bring Mr Jamil to justice after his company SmartSupportGuys, duped hundreds of UK consumers into handing over money. Consumers found programs protecting their computers were removed by call centre operators working out of India on behalf of Mr Jamil, and that their computers were left in a worse state than before.
The ‘Microsoft’ scam involves people from overseas call centres cold calling consumers in the UK claiming to be ‘Microsoft certified’ engineers or from a company working for the American software giant. They tell consumers their computers have serious faults, which if not fixed, could cause them to crash.
The call centre cold callers go on to persuade consumers they can fix the problem if the consumer gives them remote access to their computer. They then charge the consumer for installing anti-malware software that Microsoft makes available for free. The victims in this case were charged between £35 and £150, and many were elderly.
In reality the cold callers have no links to Microsoft at all, and a Microsoft spokesman confirmed that SmartSupportGuys, run by Mr Jamil, is not a Microsoft registered partner and should not charge consumers for products which Microsoft provides for nothing.
Mr Jamil aged 34, whose UK residence is at St Catherine’s Avenue, Luton, Bedfordshire, pleaded guilty at York Crown Court, to unfair trading by allowing his staff to make false claims regarding computer support services. He has agreed to pay £5,655.74 in compensation and £13,929.60 prosecution costs. Mr Jamil agreed he had tried but had failed to control call centre staff and not adequately supervised them. Deborah Sherwin, prosecuting, said that Luton trading standards officers had earlier warned Jamil about the conduct of a previous company run by him called Online PC Masters, which had operated in a similar fashion in 2010.
In sentencing, Recorder Baird said: “This is a matter which passes the threshold for a custodial sentence. There were a number of aggravating features including a series of warnings from 2010 and the sending of false satisfaction emails.”
Giving Jamil credit for an early guilty plea, Recorder Baird sentenced Jamil to four months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, and fined him £5,000. He also ordered him to pay a total of £5,665.74 compensation to 41 of his company’s customers that had been scammed, as well as £13,929.60 prosecution costs.
Lord Toby Harris, chairman of the National Trading Standards Board, which oversees the work of the National Trading Standards eCrime Team, said: “This is a landmark case, as we believe it may be the first ever successful prosecution of someone involved in the Microsoft scam in the UK. It’s an important turning point for UK consumers who have been plagued by this scam, or variants of it, for several years. Many have succumbed to it, parting with significant sums of money, their computers have been compromised and their personal details have been put at risk. Now that one of the many individuals who’ve been operating this scam has been brought to justice, it’s a stark warning to anyone else still doing it, that they can be caught and will be prosecuted.”
Cllr Linsay Cunningham-Cross, Cabinet Member for Crime and Stronger Communities at City of York Council which employs the e-Crime investigators, said: “E-crime perpetrated at home or abroad can have devastating effects on the victims. That many victims of this crime were elderly makes it even more distasteful and the successful investigation and prosecution even more welcome. Our tenacious trading standards teams work long and hard to protect people from such scams and I hope their success will deter others from taking up this kind of criminal behaviour.”
The National Trading Standards eCrime Team is run by both North Yorkshire County Council and City of York Council through the National Trading Standards Board, together with funding from the Business Innovation Service. Its role is to protect UK consumers and businesses from online scams and rip-offs.
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