back to article Microsoft settles £200,000+ claims against tech support scammers who ran global ripoff from cottage in Surrey

A multinational tech support scam was operated out of a rural Surrey cottage for years before its Indian call centre was rumbled and gave the game away to Microsoft, the High Court has heard. Redmond has settled a £200,000+ claim against Barewire Ltd and its directors, Neil Purnell and Toni Whittingham, after accusing them of …

  1. Korev Silver badge

    I'm pleased that the scammers have been walloped, but what about the true victims of their fraud, the "customers"? Will they get any form of compensation too?

    1. Blackjack Silver badge

      Not likely.

      1. HildyJ Silver badge
        Boffin

        Microsoft used a civil suit to shut them down and prevent further victims.

        Recompense would require a civil class action suit by the victims (unless there's a criminal or regulatory action).

  2. Steve K Silver badge

    Contumelious, Dr. Johnson?

    Contumelious? Is the lawyer called Edmund Blackadder by any chance...?

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      I'd wager you have to be a lawyer to have even heard that word, let alone know when to use it.

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        I don't think it's a specifically legal usage.

        The noun form "contumely" is slightly more common less rare. It's used by Hamlet in To be or not to be: "Th' oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely".

    2. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: Contumelious, Dr. Johnson?

      That might be why you almost never hear the words "sausage" or "aardvark" used in court-cases.

      1. Steve K Silver badge

        Re: Contumelious, Dr. Johnson?

        A very pontolious observation, sir

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Contumelious, Dr. Johnson?

        Or

        "Yes M'Lord, I am guilty and I am really, genuinely sorry. I will pay back any ill-gotten gains, and also an additional sum to recompense those affected by my criminal behaviour"

        I bet those words have actually never been used in any court case anywhere in the world....

        However, I bet the most used words will include "I am not guilty, it was the other guy wot done it".

  3. Custard Fridge

    Sleepy Dorking

    Dorking has been sleepy ever since Ollie Reed left...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not so Sleepy Dorking

      I met someone that lived in Dorking a couple of years back at a party. They'd rented their house out to a chap for a period, and came back to find it had been completely gutted - as in interior floors removed - and turned into a pot growing farm.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Sleepy Dorking

      It does have a 12 foot high statue of a giant cock at one end of the High Street

      https://www.google.com/maps/@51.2358754,-0.3220652,3a,15y,224.38h,91.19t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1si9kOxJ2aOp45CfhKe4omMg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656 (safe for work)

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Sleepy Dorking

      It does seem an odd choice.

      Now, if it had been near Nerding...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MS is just jealous...

    The scammers had better ratios of calls answered by humans, sales generated from those calls, & a much higher reputation than MS could ever dream to acquire.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: MS is just jealous...

      A call centre in India? Color me shocked!

      Although how one differentiates a true outsourced call centre in India from a scam call centre in India is beyond me. I suppose they could even be the *same* call centre in India...

      1. Shadow Systems Silver badge
        Coffee/keyboard

        Re: MS is just jealous...

        Foamy the Angry Squirrel has a regular running joke that *all* tech support gets outsourced to a call center in India, consolodated, until it's all just a single man doing it for everyone everywhere.

        If you want to lose a day or two laughing yourself sick, go visit Youtube & visit the Ill Will Press channel. You're welcome. =-D

  5. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Nature abhors a vacuum...

    ...and soon (if not already) some ne'er-do-wells will have filled the spot left open.

    You just can't win.

    1. elwe

      No, they will have moved on to scamming Apple customers now. Since they have self selected for propensity to be scammed and availability of funds...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Oooh.

        iScam?

        Or IiScam?

        Has a certain ring to it!

    2. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      Nature abhores a vacume...

      But she's happy when you sweep.

      I'll get my coat, it's the one with the push broom in the pocket.

      =-)p

  6. Paul Johnson 1

    And prosecution?

    So these people have paid some money to Microsoft, but what about criminal charges? Have they been arrested and charged with fraud? If not, why not?

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: And prosecution?

      Because Microsoft can sue them for trademark infringement itself in a civil action.

      Criminal action would require the Police to build a file, and for the Crown Prosecution Service to decide that it is in the public interest to prosecute and then take them to court because the politicians only gave the CPS the ability to prosecute.

      Allegedly, the Police tend to think the CPS stands for "Couldn't Prosecute Satan", which indicates that there might be a certain difficulty with getting the CPS to prosecute.

      1. cyberdemon Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: And prosecution?

        I came to the comments section to say the same. Why the @@@@ is this not a criminal matter?

        So, have Microsoft at least passed their file to the police?

        Presumably by the time the courts order compensation to the actual victims, this lot will have no money left, having just paid it to Microsoft (and squirrelled the rest of it away in the bahamas)

        1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

          Re: And prosecution?

          Because even Microsoft is more effective than your typical national government in getting **** done?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And prosecution?

        And the Daily Mail calls the CPS the Criminal Protection Service.

        I am so sick of these knee-jerk whinges against the CPS.

        A member of my family is a retired Crown Prosecutor (which is why I'm posting anon). They are NOT a bunch of charlatans or lazy, incompetent so-and-so's. They are trying their best, with their hands tied by ridiculous government cutbacks, to do a good job. They have guidelines to follow, and they are not going to waste public money by trying to prosecute a case which does not stand a realistic chance of conviction.

        And most of the time, despite what people say, the police and the CPS work well together. You do sometimes get situations where the police want to prosecute someone and the CPS says no - but that's normally because "I know it was him what done it" isn't actually sufficient to find someone guilty to the criminal standard.

        Which is not to say I don't agree with the main point - it feels to me as if there is quite a clear criminal case here. But if the case hasn't been reported to the police, or the police haven't managed to build a file to be considered by the CPS, then the CPS can't really be blamed for not prosecuting it, now can they?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And prosecution?

        Allegedly, the Police tend to think the CPS stands for "Couldn't Prosecute Satan", which indicates that there might be a certain difficulty with getting the CPS to prosecute

        Personal experience leads me to agree with them.

        Several years ago I came back from holiday to find my first floor flat had been burgled - someone had got in through the juliet bacony windows at the front of the building. Police forensics arrive and take finger prints, which I was told a few days later matched those of the dodgy guy living in the flat across the communal stairs from me. He is arrested and charged, as his prints were found under my bed in the bedroom, and it is possible to climb from his juliet balcony to mine.

        However, because he had once legitimately been in my living room 6 months previously, for 2 minutes, with me present, to use my phone to call an ambulance, the CPS decide in their great wisdom that because there is an ever so slight chance that a jury would find him innocent, they drop all charges and he gets away scot free...

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Mooseman Silver badge

          Re: And prosecution?

          "CPS decide in their great wisdom that because there is an ever so slight chance that a jury would find him innocent, they drop all charges and he gets away scot free"

          Because they are used to the vagaries and whims of the British court system, perhaps? The chances are a decent lawyer would present that as evidence of the burglar's innocence, or at least be able to present it as grounds for reasonable doubt. Juries are notoriously fickle and easily browbeaten. The CPS is not in the business of gambling, it wants cases that have a good chance of success, as the law is a very expensive business.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: And prosecution?

      now they've been identified and named, small claims filings beckon - and directors are NOT immune to being named even after the company is dissolved

      Death of a million papercuts beckons

  7. DaemonProcess
    Joke

    dorks of Dorking

    Interesting that the dorks of Dorking successfully convinced customers that they were officers of Microsoft.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: dorks of Dorking

      Sooo, if the dorks of Dorking are being dorks, I assume they are dorking?

      I never realised it was a verb.

      1. David 132 Silver badge

        Re: dorks of Dorking

        "Dorking hard, or hardly Dorking?"

  8. Duffaboy
    FAIL

    This Morning

    Had an automated phone message from a mobile phone number (probably spoofed) saying my router would fail with in 4 hours and to press 1 to be put through to technical support. Well I'm pleased to report its still working fine.

    1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: This Morning

      I had the same call and so far m

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: This Morning

        I had the same call and my internet connection is still fine, but for some reason the device I use to cut chamfered edges into wood has failed. How these people know this stuff is beyond me.

        1. Steve K Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: This Morning

          How these people know this stuff is beyond me.

          Definitely a difficult skill to learn - you can't cut corners either

          1. Martin
            Joke

            Re: This Morning

            No, because if you cut corners, Apple will sue you.

          2. David 132 Silver badge

            Re: This Morning

            Ohoho... jokes about woodworking tools? I saw what you did there.

            1. Steve K Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: This Morning

              Yes, it's a vice of mine - mortice see later if i can think of any

              We might even get tenon this list with a joint effort?

              1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

                Re: This Morning

                Nailed it.

                1. smot

                  Re: This Morning

                  You'll get sycamore jokes like that. Whoops - sorry! Cross threaded.

    2. James Wilson
      Happy

      Re: This Morning

      Mine are mostly either from Amazon or an ISP these days. I always press 1. I think the best I've managed is about 25 minutes before they realised I'm not actually following their instructions and installing a remote desktop program. Some take it gracefully, others get a bit sweary.

  9. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Unhappy

    "sham technical support services"

    I've had these calls too but, while they are "sham technical support services", they sound exactly like Microsoft's sham technical support services. I've spent months now trying to get OneDrive to install on a laptop and it keeps saying the installer is corrupted (even though the same image worked fine on another laptop) so I can see why people will fall for scammers like this - they simply finally appear to be an improvement of the standard Microsoft support.

    Yes, Microsoft, they are scammers - but when you look at what Microsoft offers as support you can see why people fall for this.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    mobile phone

    "A mobile phone number which Microsoft alleged in its pleadings belonged to Purnell went to voicemail when El Reg called; no response has yet been received."

    PLEASE share with me that phone number so I can give it to my parents that receive calls from "Microsoft" every half hour of every day.

    (and sometimes more frequently) so that they can call him repeatedly to see how he likes it.

  11. Steve Kerr

    Damn annoying

    I'm always working or in meetings/conference calls when these come through.

    I've not managed to get a slot where I can make someones life in another country just that litle bit worse.

    had a flurry of them today but being on a 4 hour customer call, couldn't answer any.

    Always tomorrow.

  12. David Roberts

    Answering Machine

    If it is genuine they may leave a message.

    Scammers almost always don't.

  13. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    If such scammers are routinely shut down in the US often with the help of law enforcement, why did it take a civil case to do something similar in the UK?

    Scamming people out of money is a criminal offence so why were plod not banging on the door of this cottage long ago?

  14. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Would you believe that Microsoft would affiliate itself with an organisation in Dorking?

    Borking, maybe.

    1. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: Would you believe that Microsoft would affiliate itself with an organisation in Dorking?

      Well their UK office is just outside Reading, in the Winnersh Triangle.

      Which suggests a new slogan: "Winnersh Don't Use Windows". Better if said with a bad Sean Connery (RIP) accent.

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