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Security

Microsoft targets fake support centers in India

Police raid 16 scam operations based in New Delhi's suburbs.

Daily life in Bucharest

Microsoft helped New Delhi police put a stop to some scam call centers.

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In India, a hub for tech support centers, a rise in scams forced Microsoft and the police to take action.

Scammers based in the suburbs of New Delhi set up fake centers, from which they sent out alerts and called people to say their computers had been infected with a nonexistent virus, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Most people ignored the efforts to contact them, but the few who didn't were offered services costing between $100 and $1,000 to fix the problem. Most of the victims were American, Canadian and Australian, Microsoft noted, but the scams impacted people in at least 15 countries.

Microsoft and cops in the city traced the fake support centers' locations, resulting in 16 raids and around 36 arrests on Tuesday and Wednesday. In October, 10 similar raids brought about 24 arrests.

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"The growth of unregulated call centers in India involved in such scams and frauds is indicative of the scale of the issue," said Courtney Gregoire, assistant general counsel of Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit, in an emailed statement. "Victim reports indicate that this is a global problem, targeting victims from most English speaking developed countries."

The company earlier this year acknowledged that such scams are a growing problem, saying its customer support services received 153,000 scam reports from customers around the world in 2017.

The scams are helped in part by India's vibrant outsourcing industry, which has brought in call centers from countries around the world. The legit side rakes in about $28 billion in annual revenue and employs about 1.2 million people, the Times noted, but equips some with the experience needed to set up fake centers.

Those centers don't all focus on tech support. In October, 28 people were arrested for posing as Canadian Revenue Agency officials, according to CBC News.

First published at 5:12 a.m. PT.
Updated at 8:27 a.m. PT: Added Microsoft comment.

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