A fraudster who conned consumers, particularly silver surfers, into parting with cash to fix phantom PC bugs was handed a suspended sentence on Friday and ordered to pay thousands of pounds in costs and compensation.
The national e-crime squad based in Yorkshire, together with ActionFraud, brought the case against Mohammed Khalid Jamil, 34, of Luton, Bedfordshire. Jamil was director at SmartSupportGuys, which purported to be an authorised Microsoft support firm.
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Call centre staff operating from India working on behalf of Jamil cold-called people across Britain claiming to be Microsoft certified techies, and asked them for remote access to solve serious faults that could cause their PC to crash.
The team of scammers would then charge punters between £35 to £100 to load anti-malware software on their system that Microsoft makes available for free.
"Many [of the victims] were elderly," Trading Standard revealed today.
Jamil coughed to the charges of unfair trading by permitting staff to make fabricated claims regarding PC support services.
He had tried "but failed" to get a better handle on call centre staff and "not adequately supervised them", National Trading Standards e-crime team found.
Prosecuting, Rebecca Brown pointed out that Luton Trading Standards had previously warned Jamil about similar cons at his former company Online PC Masters in 2010.
Passing sentence at York Crown Court, 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".
Jamil was handed four months in the slammer, suspended for 12 months, and fined £5,000. He was also ordered to pay £5,665.74 compensation to 41 customers and nearly £14k in prosecution costs.
Baird gave Jamil credit for his early guilty plea.
This is a "landmark case" said Lord Toby Harris, chairman of the National Trading Standards Board, adding "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," said Harris.
"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," he added. ®