back to article Carolina coward fesses up: I was a tech support scambag, and I made millions out of defrauding the elderly

A man has pleaded guilty in America to a single felony count for his role in a $3m tech support scam operation. Bishap Mittal, 24, of Charlotte, North Carolina, copped to one count of conspiracy to access a protected computer in a federal district court in the west of the US state. A sentencing date has yet to be set. Earlier …

  1. Mayday

    Suck Shit

    Bye bye.

    That is all.

    1. fobobob

      Re: Suck Shit

      ... for good measure.

  2. Androgynous Cow Herd

    I only hope he never bursts into flames

    So I never have a reason to not piss on him.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: I only hope he never bursts into flames

      In that case, just piss on his hands to preserve the fingerprints. It'll help the coroner ID the body.

      I do wonder how they managed to con that much money per computer though. Around here that would buy you a computer from the local shop and they would capture as much data as they could off the hard drive if it were actually broken. All of them would check the problem computer first, remove the planted scumbag software and return after doing a complete checkup and update if needed (they do ask first) for around $50 to $100.

      1. chivo243 Silver badge

        Re: I only hope he never bursts into flames

        Older people, especially some with the onset of <insert condition here> would believe you if you said the sky is now green. Add the magic of a computer to the mix, and the elderly become easy marks.

        What a world...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I only hope he never bursts into flames

          I have had all ages of customers fall for this stuff - mainly out of panic. We instruct them time and time again to call us first before responding to anything - it's difficult somehow to get that point through to them. I would like to see it made illegal for companies to purchase phone numbers on a day by day basis - to me it is sort of like the local motel that rents rooms by the hour, and never changes the sheets.

          1. Pascal

            Re: I only hope he never bursts into flames

            Setting aside for a moment why companies might need to acquire lots of phone numbers constantly (direct lines to people, etc), there should indeed be a much stricter set of checks to grand one.

            In North America and many other places, there's no controls at all (as long as you have a valid payment method, you can go to twilio and set up a fully automated call center / routing system and get dozens of phone numbers in all countries / regions for about $2 a pop).

            Some countries have rules (France, for instance): to get a phone number this way you need to provide the street address of the entity the phone number is for. But that's it: enter an adress. Nobody checks / authorizes, no proof is required.

            Anyway trying to regulate that would be a pain. A new government agency or something? Industry self-policing? And in the end it really does nothing more than trying to regulate who's allowed to get an email address would do.

      2. red floyd

        Re: I only hope he never bursts into flames

        @Mark 85, They have you install a keylogger, and wind up getting your banking credentials.

        1. John Gamble

          Re: I only hope he never bursts into flames

          I actually expected to see that in the article, but apparently not. It was a simple, 'legitimate' business operation, which I expect was why they got away with it for so long. They may have even convinced themselves that they weren't criminals because they didn't install malware.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I only hope he never bursts into flames

          Forget the key logger, most of the customers we have who fall for it give them their credentials outright; have had bank accounts cleaned out.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I only hope he never bursts into flames

          I've been watching a lot of scambaiting recently, and one tactic that seems to have cropped up is an offer to "refund" the mark for services that they claim were rendered. They'll connect via remote support software, and ask you to log into your bank account so they can process the refund... then they'll open the DOM editor and change the apparent balance. And whatever other fun things they do while they have the client's screen blacked out.

      3. WolfFan Silver badge

        Re: I only hope he never bursts into flames

        If my guys have to play with customer's drive, that's $150-250 plus the cost of a new drive. For that we kill all malware we find, do a complete backup or data recovery if the drive has problems (that's why we need a new drive, gotta put the data somewhere, we don't want it on our machines) and depending on customer preferences, update the OS and/or the major applications. We especially look for remote access tools and keyloggers. (Companies pay $250, individuals pay $150, discounts are available.) There are certain Dell systems which were not properly designed and the drives die. It was heat in times past, now it's just Dell idiocy. We tell the customer about why we don't recommend using Dells, advise that the new drive will die inside of 18-24 months and the replacement will NOT be covered by the warranty 'cause we warned them. After the new drive dies they finally listen, usually, (one company had two replacement drives die in multiple machines before they paid attention) and we sell them a new, not-a-Dell, computer.

        I love Dell because it has generated so much business for me. I hate Dell because they are completely, utterly, totally, incompetent, always were, always will be.

        1. Ghostman
          IT Angle

          Re: I only hope he never bursts into flames

          I ran the tech department at the local location of one of the largest office supply stores in the US (sales, support, repair).

          I also had a love/hate relationship with Dell computers. When one came in through the front door, my comment usually went "Another Dell!" Made a lot of money off those doing upgrades, replacing hard drives, and virus removal. (Sometimes I had so many Dells in my workbench I didn't have room for any more computers.) I really hated when they sold workstations as personal computers.

          Had one guy come in and bought the dreaded Green Card he was instructed to get through the "FBI Warning Screen" saying he had been convicted of distributing child pornography. Couldn't talk him out of it. Asked when he had been arrested? He hadn't. When did you go to court? He hadn't.

          Soooooo, how did you get convicted?

          He was back a few days later when told he needed to send more money due to "unexpected expenses getting his case taken care of".

          Finally listened to me. Got his computer cleaned out, installed av/anti-spyware, and it cost less than his Green Card.

          Told him how to handle even the most persistent of the pop-ups, and to call if he had a suspicion of a malicious action against his computer.

          Turns out the guy owned several business and over the next few years i had from 3 to 4 computers from him, a friend, or an employee of his each day.

          IT? Why not?

  3. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

    I hope he spends (a long) time in jail.

    1. Waseem Alkurdi Silver badge

      Seems he will.

      1. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

        Seems he will.

        Then it's not enough. There is a fine line between scamming old people and scamming (filthy) rich people (who deserves to be scammed).

        Karma is a bitch, they say. And I'm sure the inmates will make/turn him into one.

        1. Waseem Alkurdi Silver badge

          Well, even though rich people have lots and lots of money, it's still scamming.

          Even though they might've earned it through ill means, it's still scamming.

          Do I have the right to mug a rich person, stealing the keys to their Benz, unlock it, and drive away, simply because they are rich?

          Scamming is wrong, just like any other crime, even if the person truly deserves it.

        2. JohnFen Silver badge

          Scamming is scamming no matter who your victims are. Elderly pensioners are easier to sympathize with, but the victims being wealthy don't make the crime any more forgivable.

  4. chivo243 Silver badge

    Low, lower, lowest

    Now I know what is beneath pond scum. I'm glad my mom is relatively tech savvy, and grandma has enough tech savvy kids and grandkids around to help out.

    1. Chunky Munky

      Re: Low, lower, lowest

      When my dad passed away last year, we removed his computer & disconnected the broadband - not something my mum would ever (or has ever) used. It's not that she doesn't understand computers, she just doeasn't have a need for them.

      Now she gets a great amount of entertainment wasting the time of the 'microsoft' engineers who call about a problem with her windows. She tells them that her late husband installed the windows (the glass type) and can't see a problem except for the dirt. I think her record so far is keeping 'Stewart' on the phone for about 20 minutes. When he figured out she'd been winding him up his language was not 'something I'd care to repeat to the vicar' as she put it.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Low, lower, lowest

        My late mum was the tech-savvy one (was sysop for local government before retirement), though she became a bit vulnerable later on (on one occasion asked me about a phishing email, and it turned out another that she hadn't suspected was also dodgy).

        My dad, now a ninetysomething widower, is a true technophobe, but has spent a lifetime being far too cynical and suspicious to be taken in by such scams.

        I'm not quite sure why "vulnerable" should be so strongly associated with "old". Surely it's more a matter of personality: the gullible vs the cynical. Reg-dwelling INTJs tending towards the latter.

        1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

          Re: Low, lower, lowest

          I'm not quite sure why "vulnerable" should be so strongly associated with "old".

          The older you are, the less likely you grew up with computer technology, and sadly the more likely you are to have some form of dementia(*) which affects your judgement.

          (*) In my family we've got an Alzheimer's sufferer and yesterday I had lunch with a friend who had just spent a week handling problems with her father who has frontotemporal dementia. All forms of dementia are horrid diseases.

        2. Korev Silver badge

          Re: Low, lower, lowest

          Surely it's more a matter of personality: the gullible vs the cynical. Reg-dwelling INTJs tending towards the latter.

          A true cynic wouldn't rely on Myers-Briggs...

          1. Anonymous Coward

            Re: Low, lower, lowest

            Is INTJ Myers-Briggs? Or has it passed from there into the language, so it can be used as a proxy for geeky types? It's less rude, and probably more accurate, than the whole stereotype of poor personal hygiene and no life.

            If it hasn't passed into the language, how come you knew what it meant without any explanation or reference? Is it that you are yourself a stereotypical Reg-reading INTJ? Hmmm ... someone named after a lager (even if it is a rather pleasant lager) could fit a worse profile than that if we allow ourselves such influences.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Low, lower, lowest

              "Reg-dwelling INTJs tending towards the latter."

              Not all Reg-dwellers are INTJ. I'm INTP, for instance...

              1. This post has been deleted by its author

            2. JohnFen Silver badge

              Re: Low, lower, lowest

              In my part of the world, "INTJ" has not entered the realm of slang. It's always a reference to Myers-Briggs.

              "It's less rude, and probably more accurate, than the whole stereotype of poor personal hygiene and no life."

              I thought that stereotype largely died. I mean, there is still a stereotype like that, but I don't think it's synonymous with the general nerd anymore. It's a specific subset of nerd. In any case, if INTJ is being used as a synonym for that, I don't see how it's less offensive.

            3. Korev Silver badge

              Re: Low, lower, lowest

              I was made to do it at work once...

  5. STOP_FORTH Silver badge

    Tech support aliases

    I get these calls about once a month. Best name that was ever offered was "Aled Jones". Funny thing is, he didn't sound at all like he does on the radio. I'd have guessed the accent as being Indian, which is odd as when I attempt a Welsh accent it always sounds more Pakistani than anything else.

    He eventually passed me to his supervisor (can't recall his name, I think he was a rugby player) who demonstrated an admirable grasp of Anglo-Saxon. I always feel I have won when they hang up on me.

    Also, I still feel sorry for the poor kid who sang "Walking in the Air" in the film. Whatever happened to him?

    1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      Re: Tech support aliases

      He works as an operatic tenor:

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I get these calls about once a month.

      Just out of curiosity, which types of numbers do they call from? Are these US or foreign-looking numbers?

      I've been receiving lots of 001 calls to my cell phone (in Brazil!) and simply don't reply.

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: I get these calls about once a month.

        Just out of curiosity, which types of numbers do they call from?

        Here in the UK they usually look like UK numbers, often London ones.

        1. Waseem Alkurdi Silver badge

          Re: I get these calls about once a month.

          Here in Jordan, they call from UK numbers too!

          (I'm talking about "real" HP's support desk. They'd call from Dubai -probably where the outsourced call center is at- but the number showing would begin with +44 and a location of "London" in Android's dialer.)

          But call centers of local companies also use local numbers, even when the call center is actually in India or something.

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: I get these calls about once a month.

        In the US, they can set the ID to be any number they want, and the trend lately has been to set it so that it appears the call is coming from someone in your local area.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: I get these calls about once a month.

          In this case, they didn't initiate the calls but put the number in ads to appear like a support line. So probably it was a toll-free number or, if they weren't that competent, a random American number.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I get these calls about once a month.

          We've gotten calls where the Caller ID reports the caller is... the phone being called. With our name and all.

  6. veti Silver badge

    Seven figures in ill-gotten games? Must have kept them busy.

  7. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge

    Hmm ...

    Most of my elderly relatives now tell these "tech support" scammers to hold the line while they transfer them to the IT department. They then hang up the phone.

    Nobody has called back so far...

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Hmm ...

      Your relatives need a real "hold" button, complete with cheap hold music, to waste as much of their time as possible.

  8. p00b

    That's why i love Kitboga's work on twitch, he is calling those scammers and waste their time , sometimes spending more than 2h with the same "support engineer" , interesting to see how they proceed when you call them

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Is he the guy who got the "support engineer" to encrypt his (scammer's) drive without having a note of the password?

  9. Alistair Silver badge

    Some days.

    My mother (now in her mid 80's) was the one that bought me minix when I was a teen. She built the TI-99/4 kit.

    Has run DOS, Win3.x, Windows 98 and on. She's still working at her profession (Medical Dicta Transcription) part time, runs linux, and has 2 vms on there, one her work windows env, the other her personsal win7 instance. She recently had to call out the tech support fellow for her employer as being an idiot (the whole company is, but he's firmly convinced that her ISP is blocking a specific port *INSIDE* a vpn tunnel). She gets these calls sometimes. I've set her up with a separate gentoo instance in a vm for those guys to play with. (there's a nifty KDE theme that looks almost precisely like XP). Her record so far was 93 minutes. Its fun watching that recording. He could not for the life of himself figure out why regedit kept popping bash: regedit: command not found at the c:\ prompt.

  10. JohnFen Silver badge

    Only one count?

    That asshole is getting off far too lightly.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Only one count?

      I guarantee you that his asshole has not even begun to be punished, YET.

      1. David Roberts

        Re: Only one count? male rape?

        There seems to be a lot of relish for male rape as an integral part of a prison sentence.

        Probably says something about the posters.

        It also ignores the subset of the population who enjoy anal sex and are thus, presumably, getting a less onerous (perhaps even enjoyable) sentence.

        Where's the Bubba icon?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    adware to scare victims

    This is also a very lucrative business on Android:

    March 7, 2019

    "it said i had 4 viruses so i click on remove.. it takes me to play store to install [REDACTED] app which has bee on my phone for 2 weeks??? how can i have viruses when [REDACTED] is installed but i still get notices that i have 4 viruse???"

    Source: Play Store reviews of [REDACTED]

    (This has been going on for over 6 years now.)

    Scary pop-up=$PROFIT!

    Android=Dumpster Fire

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