Busting tech support scammers: Undercover in India (Marketplace)
[♪♪] [David] We’re secretly recording a criminal operation targeting Canadians These scammers in India don’t know it, but we’re onto them Over 50 fraudsters in this one call centre taking control of our computers [David] And using scare tactics to demand payment for a computer fix you likely don’t need [David] It’s called the tech support scam [David] From cold calls to fake pop ups warning you’ve got a virus [David] Different tactics Same scam How much money was stolen from you? -3,000 -$3,000 [David] So how did Nahid Thilipos fall for that scam? Her cell phone stops working, so she Googles for help and finds a number she thinks is legit So when the guy answered, he said, “This is Apple What can we do for you?” And I said my problem was maybe the phone is not– like, there is something wrong on it He said, oh, sure, this is very common [David] The scammer convinces her to go to a nearby store and buy a $50 iTunes gift card to pay for the quick fix But once she does? He went onto the phone and he said, there are many problems on the phone There are hackers from Russia, from India, from Brazil He said all that about your phone? Yeah He said it’s a complicated issue We need to work on this phone It has to be minimum $3,000 to be able to do the transaction [David] Three grand to fix her phone? But the scammer promises a quick refund When it doesn’t happen, Nahid calls back I said, “Where’s my money? “Where’s my money? “Are you the scammers? Are you thieves?” He then hang up the phone Then I tried again, like, 10 times, 12 times Nobody want to answer [David] She’s not alone [David] In 2018, the tech support scam cost Canadians nearly $1 million They’re trying to make themselves look very legitimate [David] Former police officer Ryan Duquette says he’s not surprised We’ve had situations where, you know, different ID has been taken out on people and fake driver’s license and whatnot going all the way up to, you know, your house being sold -What? -Without you knowing -Yeah, absolutely -Your house being sold? Yes We’ve had situations where a for sale sign has been posted on somebody’s front yard without their knowledge of that even happening So they’ve been able to steal their identity, take a mortgage out in their name and whatnot, so it can be pretty scary when your identity gets stolen Once they have control of your computer, is it game over? Once they’re in there, you don’t know if they’ve installed a backdoor or some malicious code into your system So there is a risk here of losing more than just the money they’re asking for There’s a risk of losing stuff that is even more important Oh, absolutely, yeah [David] With the stakes so high, it’s time to get inside an active scam centre [♪♪] [David] It takes months, carefully tracing the operations targeting Canadians And then, a breakthrough We find an employee willing to go in with a hidden camera [David] None of it is true This is where the sales pitch meets scare tactics [David] This scam goes beyond those fake pop-ups These criminals have infiltrated internet search Look for help online with your phone or computer Turns out many of the top sites you see could actually be a scammer [David] So our producer, Nelisha, calls one of them up [Nelisha] Hi I’m having some issues with my computer, and I’m really hoping you can help me [David] Within minutes, the scammer says he needs remote access [David] He directs us to download software to help him diagnose the problem [David] In reality, that software gives him complete access to absolutely everything on your computer, photos, banking, even medical files [Nelisha] What happens next?
[David] In just seconds, he’s connected, and we’re locked out [David] That’s not true, and we know it This computer has just been cleaned [Nelisha] How much is the installation fee? [David] But just a few moments later, the price has gone up [David] Before the price goes up again, it’s time to reveal who we really are Well, you’re not going to send an invoice to us because we’re actually journalists in Canada We know this is a scam, and I’d just like to ask you why you do this, why you’re scamming vulnerable people out of their money? No, you’re not No You’re not doing anything to this machine We know this is a scam We know you’re a scammer Why do you do this? No, nothing’s free, and so I would ask you, why do you think you should be able to steal people’s money for basically nothing? You think I’m wasting your time. And he’s gone [David] He doesn’t want to talk about his crime But that’s not stopping us We’re going to try to find scam centres like his [♪♪] [David] Our investigations led us here to India’s capital, home to hundreds of call centres in buildings like this employing thousands of workers for some of the biggest tech firms in the entire world But the big money, it’s not being made here That’s just down the road in fraudulent call centres [♪♪] So how long did you work in a tech support scam? More than three years [David] Puneet Malik used to scam Canadians I used to make almost $3,000 sale every day That basically means I used to take out $3,000 from Canadian and United States nationals’ pockets every day [David] He says he worked in this building just outside New Delhi My pitch used to start with $200, so that basically means at least they will be giving $200 dollars if they want their computer back And it’s not their fault It’s not a virus -You’re lying to them -Absolutely You’re just trying to scare them Yeah It’s literally, you know, you used a really great word It’s a scare tactic You would tell the customer that if you don’t pay us the money, you will be losing your computer Other than that, all your financial details, your social security number, that has been stolen already So if you want your information to be safe and secure, you have to pay us [David] He tells us this scam is much bigger than the one company he worked at Once the tech scammers have your personal information, they can sell it on to other scam centres So you mean if someone falls victim to the tech support scam, that’s just the entry level? Then they’re gonna be in the queue for the next scam, the tax scam, keep going and keep going and keep going Absolutely It’s a chain reaction, you know, once you are into this, once you are trapped, your information is out in the open, and that’s in a whole different country [David] One big criminal operation with connections in multiple cities Selling your data for pennies They are selling the data Tech support sales data And you have inbound leads, that basically means the people who actually call in, this is known as a gold mine of data So these have been past victims who you’re gonna try to victimize again This is what it is all about, and you will be amazed In less than $1, they are selling [David] What’s more, Puneet confirms scammers have infiltrated search engines, so their sites show up at the top of the queue You enter Microsoft Support Canada because you’re looking for help on your computer, so you click over here The very first listing– Yeah. Scam Absolutely [David] Many ways to scam and many centres too Now that we know how it works, it’s time to confront the scammers face to face [David] Confronting the scammers on your Marketplace [♪♪] [David] We’re on the trail of an insidious racket, the tech support scam Stealing millions from Canadian victims run by Indian crime syndicates in dozens of call centres In Mumbai, our hidden camera reveals dozens of workers on the
phones using scare tactics to convince Canadians into paying up [David] But when some Canadians don’t fall for it, the callers get even more aggressive [David] This operation has been scamming Canadians for over a year [David] We’ve had our eyes on this active centre targeting Canadians for months [♪♪] It’s amazing to think it’s right here [David] We’ve been warned that the call centre is heavily monitored by security guards with a history of using violence Still, there is a narrow window for us to go in and see if the centre is still scamming Right here This is the one we’ve been watching The company whose name is at this address says this is a legitimate operation, but we know some of the people inside are running a scam Why do you have a call centre here? Why do you do this illegally? [David] We wanna talk to the top bosses There are real victims Real victims These are real people who cannot afford to lose this money You’re taking it from them [David] But no one here wants to talk to us At least while we’re here, they’re off the phones Anyone wanna say anything? [David] And the calls stop for now Nobody? Okay Do you have anything you’d say? No? Okay [David] We have to get out fast, but we’re taking our findings to Washington state [♪♪] [David] That’s where tech giant Microsoft has been fighting these call centres for years This is their command centre In just the past year, clues unearthed here have led to multiple raids Thirty call centres raided, 69 arrested in six months in India, all credit to the Indian law enforcement We know action is taking place in Canada and the UK and the US That helps get at the money flow, but we need to make sure we’re tackling this for the sophisticated criminal network it is [David] Courtney Gregoire, chief digital safety officer, leads Microsoft’s secure digital crimes unit How big is this? We are seeing losses in the hundreds and millions and billions of dollars– -Billions of dollars? When you look at globally Let me just give you one statistic We go out last year, and we went to a survey in 12 different countries around the globe We found that two out of three people had experience with the tech support scam, two out of three That says something about just how big this is It does It truly does And the reality is, if you’re thinking about this at the individual consumer level, you’re losing 200 or 500 dollars here, but those numbers are chalking up And the network behind it is truly criminal in nature and international in nature You’ve seen the aftermath of what these places look like once raids have gone through Have you ever seen one in operation? I have not been present for an operation -Would you like to? -I would love to Okay We have video from inside an operation that is running right now Looking at this script, it’s playing on the consumer’s fear of technology This is something you’ve heard before Yeah Quite the serious threat To see inside and know that it’s happening, that in some cases they’re using your company name to do it, you must get mad You do It really brings together the commitment It’s why our team is so focused on tackling this scam We’re mad, but we just don’t sit mad We want to take action and go on the offensive and address these critical issues [David] This is your Marketplace [♪♪] [David] In India, authorities are struggling to stop a devious scam, fake tech support, costing victims in Canada millions of dollars [♪♪] [David] Back in Canada, Nahid Thilipos says both countries need to work together so people like her don’t have to pay the price Who should be trying to stop these guys? Why don’t the authorities in Canada and India cooperate together?
I don’t know how they could stop it, but authorities should do something together, of those countries and our country as well [David] We know the RCMP and Indian police can take action we’ve seen it in the past But those calls keep coming, so what are they doing now to stop the scammers once and for all? Superintendent, David Common Good to meet you Hi, David Nice to meet you [David] We meet up with the head of the RCMP’s financial crimes unit, Superintendent Peter Payne What can you tell me is being done right now to help combat that tech support scam? We’re collaborating with our partners, the Indian authorities, other Five Eyes partners which include the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand on a periphery We have constant meetings with union authorities over there talking about not just tech scams in general but all these scams You talk about the kinds of places you want to shut down We were actually able to get inside one of them, and I’d like to show you some video of that -Good -Okay? Let’s take a look here What does it say that we were able to get inside a call centre like this, to get right inside of it, but there aren’t raids going on against a place like that by RCMP or Indian police? Yeah, no, applaud your efforts for getting in, but once again, police alone cannot solve this issue There’s lots of call centres over there What are the kinds of things that you think of when you hear that? Because on the other line, the thing we’re not seeing are Canadians, are people being scammed It makes me mad We’ve all received these calls My best advice is to hang up Don’t feel threatened It can get aggressive Hang up Call the Canadian anti-fraud centre Call your local police agency Report it [David] Unfortunately there are still people being scammed, and they want the RCMP, they want federal authorities, they want the Indian police together, shutting these guys down And they wonder why that hasn’t happened yet We have jurisdictional issues, so it’s not as simple as us going over there and making the arrests, impacting the investigations We need the cooperation of local authorities, which we have, it’s ongoing You think you’re making headway We are We’re making headway in this, yes [David] And yet still people are getting phone calls, are still facing this and are being defrauded Totally We can’t stop everything So disruption of law enforcement alone can’t conquer this issue It gets back to public awareness, education, so the more aware they are of this, the more they talk to people, the more it gets out in front of them Where there’s, like, shows like yours or the media, that helps the public What do you say to the scammers who are over there who think they’re unstoppable? We’re not giving up this battle We talk about vulnerable people losing their life savings and losing money The police are serious about it [David] If there are limits to what the authorities can accomplish, this guy is determined to find another way So you’re scamming the scammers? Pretty much Out of their time, yes [David] His name is Kitboga, and he’s a scambaiter He actually calls the fraudsters and wastes their time so they can’t waste yours Why do you do it? When I first started, I, in a way, was thinking of my grandmother I knew that if they called her, if she were still alive, she would’ve fallen for it And I felt like I wanted to do something about it [David] His videos on both YouTube and gaming site Twitch have generated over 65 million views Oh, no, no, no I have a wig I always hide myself for a second to keep the immersion Oh, yeah, okay Oh, yes! Look at that! Of course, I have to have my grandmother voice In this one, I can get away with anything when I talk to the scammers which is both hilarious and sad So let’s play an example here, and we can both watch You just lied to me the entire time, didn’t you? I bet you don’t even know how to remove all of these errors and warnings Type in your password, the level, which level technician you are Oh, my level is over 9000 Do you want me to be completely honest? I called you 54 minutes ago, and I knew ahead of time that this was a tech support scam But I figured, you know what? I’ll just hope for the best We’ll see what happens Maybe they won’t scam me You’re like a one-man warrior to take on the criminals And it’s working It is really neat to see Hundreds of people reaching out and saying I was able to stop my dad from being scammed, or my grandmother recognized one of the scripts from the video that you posted on YouTube, and it just– it makes me smile to think that there’s people who have not fallen for these scams because of it
How long are you going to continue doing what you’re doing? I suppose as long as they’re calling people, I’m going to keep calling them [David] One solution that could keep the scammers away, at least for now