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India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), in collaboration with FBI, NCA and Interpol, among others, conducted a nationwide crackdown on cybercrime operations, targeting tech support scams and cryptocurrency fraud as part of Operation Chakra-II.
In a series of raids across several Indian states, including Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Bihar, Delhi, and West Bengal, the CBI seized 32 mobile phones, 48 laptops and hard disks, and 33 SIM cards. Furthermore, they took action by freezing numerous bank accounts and seizing emails linked to 15 accounts, which provided crucial information about the alleged scam operations.
“This collaboration marks the first time Microsoft and Amazon have joined forces to combat tech support fraud. We firmly believe that partnerships like these are not only necessary but pivotal in creating a safer online ecosystem and in extending our protective reach to a larger number of individuals,” said Amy Hogan-Burney, General Manager, Associate General Counsel, Cybersecurity Policy and Protection at Microsoft.
One of the most significant parts of the operation was dismantling two tech support scams operating for at least five years. These operations impersonated customer support agents from well-known multinational companies like Amazon and Microsoft. They targeted over 2,000 customers in the United States, Canada, Germany, Australia, Spain and the UK.
These scammers used fraudulent pop-up messages to convince victims that their computers had technical issues and then charged them for unnecessary services.
Operation Chakra-II also exposed a highly sophisticated cryptocurrency fraud scheme that targeted unsuspecting Indian citizens. Under the guise of a fake crypto-mining operation, the scammers swindled over Rs.100 crore ($12 million) from Indian victims. The fraudsters developed a fictitious cryptocurrency token, enticing investors with promises of substantial returns from investments in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency mining.
To bolster their scheme, the accused created a misleading website featuring a renowned Indian American Crypto Technologist’s image, falsely leading investors to believe their funds would be used to purchase mining machines. The scammers even dedicated applications to deceive their victims further. Initially, investors received returns to gain trust, but all payments ceased after August 2021.
The CBI has identified 150 accounts associated with his cryptocurrency crime ring, including accounts from shell companies, proprietorship firms, and individual accounts used to collect illicit funds. The scammers had even created a fake cryptocurrency token to deceive investors.
“Through our continued commitment to protect consumers from impersonation scams, we initiated takedowns of more than 20,000 phishing websites and 10,000 phone numbers being used as part of impersonation schemes in 2022. We also have referred hundreds of bad actors across the globe to law enforcement authorities, which have resulted in arrests and raids on scam operations,” said Amazon.
This collaborative effort involves international law enforcement agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the US, Cyber Crime Directorate and IFCACC of Interpol, the National Crime Agency (NCA) of the UK, the Singapore Police Force, and the BKA of Germany, and major tech companies like Microsoft and Amazon, all working closely with the Indian federal enforcement agency.
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