It was only some weeks later that Mr Varey realised that he had been a victim of computer software service fraud.
He was recently contacted by a Microsoft executive seconded to the investigation which has seen the City of London Police working with several Indian police forces. Microsoft got involved in funding the inquiry because the scam callers often claim to be working for the company.
The documents supplied by Mr Varey were important evidence as the operation to raid call-centres in Kolkata was planned.
How to avoid being scammed
The City of London Police said anyone who thought they had been targeted by a computer software service scam should contact Action Fraud.
The police offered these tips to avoid being scammed:
- Always check out callers, especially cold callers who claim to be Microsoft, your telephony provider or internet service provider.
- Legitimate organisations will encourage you to call back via a number you’ve obtained from a trustworthy source.
- Do not assume that the number displayed on your phone is accurate, these can be spoofed, leading you to believe that the caller is in the UK or from a trusted organisation.
- Don’t call phone numbers on pop-up messages which indicate there is a problem with your computer.
The offices of Vision Call Services was one of the locations targeted. A statement from the Kolkata Police said they had found an illegal call centre in operation, with callers introducing themselves as officials from Microsoft. A number of computers and hard disks were seized, and four people were arrested.
Commander Karen Baxter of the City of London Police said the international operation sent a message to criminals: “Overseas fraudsters should see this as a warning: we will use every tactic in our power to halt your pernicious criminal activities.”
The fraudsters use a variety of techniques to extract cash from their victims. Sometimes they use popup ads to offer a worthless anti-virus protection package, or they call claiming they have detected a fault on your PC.
But often they persuade their victims to give them remote access to their computers. Once they have achieved that, they move on to getting into their target’s online bank account.
Commander Baxter says these are unscrupulous criminals who will stop at nothing to bleed their victims dry: “They are very convincing, tenacious and have developed sophisticated systems in an effort to elude capture.”
Microsoft welcomed the success of the operation in Kolkata. The firm’s UK head of legal affairs Hugh Milward said:”Effective public-private partnerships are essential if we are to combat sophisticated cyber criminals who operate on a global scale.”
The company says it will never cold call people to offer technical support.
Mr Varey says he feels “a plonker” for having fallen for the scam but he wants to help others avoid being deceived.
“The money is gone but what I really want to do is stop other people falling for this same scam.”