back to article Brit IT firms wound up by court order after fooling folk into paying for 'support' over fake computer errors

Two Kent-registered IT companies have been wound up in the High Court of England and Wales for trying to scam punters with fake pop-ups to generate tech support cons. The court heard that Msinfosys Support Ltd and MS Global Support Ltd, both operated by the same director, generated unsolicited pop-up error messages that …

  1. ShadowSystems

    Whack-a-mole.

    The guy will file insolvency & walk away from his debts. Then he'll reopen a new business under the name of his wife/child/cat/etc & be right back in business within 24 hours. He may even "sell" all the old company resources to the new one & not even have to do anything but change the name on the letterhead/payroll/etc.

    I wish it were legal to lock them in public stocks & force them to listen to Vogon poetry for the rest of their lives. Let their screams for mercy be a warning to others not to do the same shit.

    Oh who am I kidding? Society is too <sarcasm>nice</sarcasm> for that. They'd get a group therapy session in some posh mental hospital & "forced" to join in the happy sing-a-longs to work through their "issues". Fuck that. Bring back the Spanish Inquisition! Release the comfy chairs!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Whack-a-mole.

      I presume the money wasn't handed over in notes on the doorstep. It must have gone through a BANK. So let's make the BANKS liable for recompensing the victims, then THEY can recover the money from the scammers. That'll encourage them to do the due diligence on their business account holders and make them a bit more wary about taking on the resurrections.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Whack-a-mole.

        > I presume the money wasn't handed over in notes on the doorstep. It must have gone through a BANK. So let's make the BANKS liable for recompensing the victims,

        Great idea. The scam also worked used the telephone network - we should ban international calls as well.

        1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

          Re: Ban international calls

          AFAIK BT are required to complete connections even when they know the originating network hosts scammers. We could make BT financially responsible for phone scams and let them pass the bill on to the originating network. That network then has choices: do not pay up and get disconnected from the UK, pass the bill onto their customers or terminate accounts with scammers.

          On the other hand there is a better solution: present a ridiculous straw man as the only possible solution and declare the problem unsolvable. Have you considered a career in politics?

          1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

            Re: Ban international calls

            I bet the mysterious "legal" requirement to terminate calls for revenue would cease to be a problem if the liability for fraudulent caller ID rested with BT.

    2. Roger Greenwood

      Re: Whack-a-mole.

      Vogon poetry is a bit harsh

      .

      .

      .

      no, you're right, full vogon, it's the only way to be sure.

      1. Qwelak
        Trollface

        Re: Whack-a-mole.

        The Vogons .. Pah, I say they should have Grunthos the Flatulents full works read to them or to be really cruel that of Paula Nancy Millstone Jennngs of Greenbridge , Essex, England (and you wouldn't have to go so far).

      2. ChrisC Silver badge

        Re: Whack-a-mole.

        "Vogon poetry is a bit harsh"

        If it's only a *bit* harsh, then it's not real Vogon poetry you've been listening to. Probably just a random sampling of the endless mindnumbing chatter from the good folk of Kakrafoon Kappa...

  2. TimMaher Silver badge
    FAIL

    Just this afternoon

    Jacob, from BT Openreach, called from an unavailable number.

    Apparently my router is generating errors.

    I asked him to hang on a sec. and went off to watch the news.

    He hung up.

    Hmm...

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Just this afternoon

      Jacob, from BT Openreach, called from an unavailable number.

      Apparently my router is generating errors.

      I asked him to hang on a sec. and went off to watch the news.

      He hung up.

      Hmm...

      I kept them hanging on for as long as possible by having to answer the door, turn the cooker off, deal with the decorator choosing paint colours, make a cup of tea etc. Then start the computer which took time as I had to remember my password "much easier once it's logged in as I keep all my passwords in a text file." That kept them very interested before finally I got into Windows. Then when I was asked to download teamviewer or whatever I'd say I obviously have to hang up to connect to the internet. Yes I'd say I had dialup but only used it to connect the computer to my bank for online banking. I'd hang up at this point to 'connect' and 'download' whatever it was then do something else.

      Occasionally they'd call back and I'd pretend to be a business, foreign, or both. So calling back to speak to me might get you through to:

      Freddy's Massage Parlor "Every customer has a Happy Ending",

      Tony's Garage "A fender bender does not mean crash damaged,

      RAF Strike Command, High Wycombe,

      or even

      Detective Inspector Hammond, if I was in a bad mood.

      1. Steve Kerr

        Re: Just this afternoon

        I have been answering calls for entertainment value, so far

        BT

        BT Internet

        BT openreach

        Amazon (iphone/ipad has been purchased)

        VISA (we've stopped a payment)

        I've been very helpful, and it I manage to have them on the phone for more than 5-10 minutes and get bored, I go from civil to turning the dial to 11 on extreme swearing and abuse

        On the see-saw of happiness, mine goes up, theirs go down.

        I do know they are real people on the other end, but they are despicable scum preying on the unwary, unknowing and trusting and deserve what they get.

        Oddly, the number of calls I've got seem to have radically reduced since I started on this experiment

        1. Bogbody

          Re: Just this afternoon

          Last call like that was years ago....

          "Hello I'm from Microsoft, your computer has a virus"

          Oh - ok - what do I do?

          "Turn on your computer please"

          Ok - just a minuite.....

          So I turned the radio on loud, put the phone down in front of it and went to the shops.

          Shortly after that I got CLI working. I now dont answer unless I recognise the number and they start to leave a message.

          Lots of calls from Private Numbers, international or fake VOIP. Bit of a pain because some profesionals dont understand that no number plus no message equals I dont answer.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Hold Music

            I have a selection of "hold music". I tell them I need to get the boss to deal with their call. Then select some nice extreme punk\thrash music for them. Maybe a bit of Crass. Something nice and soothing for their delight while I go find "the boss"...

            1. Oldgroaner
              Devil

              Re: Hold Music

              Too kind. I recommend Peter Maxwell Davies Eight Songs for a Mad King.

              1. Potemkine! Silver badge

                Re: Hold Music

                Nice!

                Another one found on youtube: " 1 HOUR of Epic Dark Evil Sinister Dramatic Horror Music".

              2. The Boojum
                Pint

                Re: Hold Music

                Thanks for the PMD 'recommendation'. I do like a lot of modern classical music so will listen to this with interest and an open mind on a suitable occasion.

                However I can absolutely see its value as spam-call-on-hold music [evil grin]. Have a ...

            2. Coastal cutie

              Re: Hold Music

              I just decide it's time to test the smoke alarm

            3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

              Re: Hold Music

              Might I recommend the Technohead mix of The Original Gabber's "Pump that p***y" for something that manages to be both obscene and also very fast. Turn it up to 11 to damage the fecker's eardrums.

            4. Shalghar

              Re: Hold Music

              I tried several approaches, including talking to them in a totally made up fantasy language.

              After my fruitless and long going encounters with the Bundesnetzagentur to get that number blocked, i finally resorted to redirecting that number to an obsolete telephone jack on my box where my trusted antique panasonic fax is always ready to beep and screech at them as long as they want.

              This solution has not done anything to their tenacity, they still call up to 4 times a day.

        2. VBF
          Angel

          Re: Just this afternoon

          Some time ago, one of these scumbags called me, so I "agreed " to do what it asked....it's giving me instructions and could presumably hear me typing away.

          What it couldn't know was I was doing other work on my PC with no intention of going near it's site. Got it puzzling over why I wasn't appearing when after about 20mins I got bored so issued it with some racist and anatomically impossible suggestions and hung up!

          Not big, not clever....but VERY satisfying :-)

          Normally though, I just suggest it procreates elsewhere, and I block the number.

          References to "it" and "its"? Well he / she and his / hers refer to humans...NOT these scumbags!

      2. PeterM42
        Devil

        Re: Just this afternoon

        Nah! - just wait until you get through, then take a VERY deep breath and blow a whistle into your phone's mic. VERY satisfying.

  3. batfink Silver badge

    Companies wound up huh?

    Companies wound up? No sign of any penalties against the director? That'll learn 'em. I'll bet this will act as a huge lesson to any other would-be scammers, who will immediately mend their evil ways.

    1. ChrisC Silver badge

      Re: Companies wound up huh?

      Don't forget Internet Rule #37 - whenever thou useth the style of prose known as sarcasm, thou shalt always embellish thy works with a /s so as to educate readers of all persuasion that they shall take thee not seriously, for fear of misinterpreting thy words...

      ...you know, just in case someone's having a comprehension fail and doesn't pick up on the subtle hints you may have left for them :-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Companies wound up huh?

      This is what I don't get about "companies" big and small. It is the "company" that gets used as a cover for all kinds of legal scams and the individual decision makers get to run away with the money. (See also Post Office)

      Get a good lawyer and you get away with anything. Meanwhile the old lady on the end of the phone looses thousands. I've see too many of these scams, and similar, get away with far too much money. Honest people can't afford those lawyers.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Companies wound up huh?

        "This is what I don't get about "companies" big and small. It is the "company" that gets used as a cover for all kinds of legal scams and the individual decision makers get to run away with the money."

        Not always

        Ikea France fined €1m for snooping on staff...On Tuesday former head of risk Jean-François Paris was given an 18-month suspended sentence and a €10,000 fine...Former Ikea France CEO Jean-Louis Baillot was given a two-year suspended jail term and €50,000 fine.

        1. Potemkine! Silver badge

          Re: Companies wound up huh?

          Sounds good, but I would rather see what the Appeal Court will say in one year or two. Too often first judgements against companies seem to be harsh enough to be deterrent, but are quietly dismissed in Appeal Court, nicely swept under the carpet and without media attention...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Companies wound up huh?

          That has a whiff of "foreign company tax" about it though.

          1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

            Re: Companies wound up huh?

            Well, since Ikea is a Swedish company, and this was in France, and both countries are EU members, and thus both subject to the same GDPR, and this was a case about a breach of the GDPR...

            No.

  4. Snorlax

    +91 Support Scum

    “Brit IT firms” in the loosest sense only.

    Unfortunately there are 1000’s more “Vikrams” out there preying on vulnerable people. The profits are offshored long before they end up in court.

  5. Howard Sway

    the director, Vikram Singh, had no real control of either company and work was outsourced

    How the hell is this a valid excuse? I was under the impression that directors have a legal responsibility for the activities of their company. So, if there is fraud they can be charged and prosecuted. He could have gone and got a job somewhere else if he wasn't pleased with the arrangement, but didn't choose to do so.

    Since when did "sorry guv, it's nothing to do with me, it's just my name and signature on all the documents" get you off the hook?

    1. Velv
      Headmaster

      Re: the director, Vikram Singh, had no real control of either company and work was outsourced

      <Devils Advocate>

      Subtleties of the law, what laws were actually broken and by who, and more importantly, can that be proven in a court of law in England (where they were registered)

      Sucks, yes, but I'm guessing the CPS has limited chances of securing an actual conviction, which would suggest the laws around Company Directors need to be tightened. Clearer messages when you sign on that dotted line to form a company that YOU are legally responsible even if someone else is running the business (Go To Jail, Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect £200).

      1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

        Re: the director, Vikram Singh, had no real control of either company and work was outsourced

        Mostly laziness, I guess.

        If they really enforced all of the dire penalties on directors who do this, I'm guessing that these lowlifes might be bit less inclined to take the money for the signature on the Companies House paperwork.

  6. MrMerrymaker Silver badge

    Jail for the directors

    Three months for every victim, no suspension of sentences.

  7. jdb3

    What bothers me the most about this sort of case is the clear indications that no one has the inclination to finally solve this issue. Yes, there will always be scammers and victims. However, it seems that (for the most part) these people get away with a slap on the wrist, and (as has already been commented) just chuckle and immediately do it again.

    There should be (at the least) a multi-phase approach -

    1) If you're convicted at that level, you can't work in an IT related company. Period. If you try, you get fined, and then jail.

    2) Phone companies need to provide ACTUAL numbers when calling. If it is coming from overseas, don't just pass along a domestic phone number - block it.

    3) Get banks to resist these scams too - my credit union already blocks transactions over 100$ online (unless it's Amazon, unfortunately) until I can verify that it is real. Expand this to say "you're sending 50$ to an overseas company that is a suspected scammer - do you really want to do that?"

    I've not seen any of these happen. I know it's not easy, but something has to happen. I'm getting really tired of all the calls I get, especially the broken ones that start as one scam, then after it doesn't get a response, switches to another one to go to my voicemail. Separately, I'm sure the amount of money these scammers get is ridiculous. If that can be cut in any way, it's worth doing.

    Ok, proceed to tell me why I'm completely wrong.

  8. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    First thoughts are that Companies House were acting to the limit of their ability - fraud prosecutions, which would appear to be appropriate, aren't in their remit. But given that the alleged director wasn't in control of the company, isn't there an offence under the Companies Act here?

    1. nobody who matters

      Companies House didn't do anything - they do not have any powers to do anything, and it is not within their remit.

      As stated in the article, the action was brought about by The Insolvency Service, acting as a result of complaints recieved from 'customers' of these companies. Investigation of financial wrongdoing and taking enforcement action IS within the remit of The Insolvency Service.

  9. xyz123

    Every single employee director, shareholder and profiteer of this company should be sued into full bankruptcy.

    The corporate veil should be piereced. they should all lose their homes, their savings, trust funds and everything they own.

    This would send a shockwave through the country showing "if you work for a scammer as a scammer, you WILL also be punished"

    Then they'll have a hell of a time recruiting ANYONE to run fake call centers.

    1. saxicola

      Yes but this is Britain, once you start doing that, a precedent is set and the monied entitled folks wouldn't want that to happen so they let the "small fry" get away with it lest the spotlight be turned on them.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well that's a relief. Now anyone receiving a pop-up can check the Companies House website and be informed that their alleged saviour has been wound up, which everyone always does. And the indian sweatshop running the scam definitely won't change the name, or set up another limited company with a shill director.

  11. anothercynic Silver badge

    That's nice...

    But now have a word with the Indian authorities, track the real owners down, and take them for every penny they've taken from UK residents.

    But what are the chances... After all, Bozo wants a deal with Modi, can't upset the biggest democracy on the planet.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021