The ringleader of a Microsoft technical support scam company called "Smart Support Guys" has been successfully prosecuted in the UK.
Mohammed Khalid Jamil was handed a four-month suspended sentence for masterminding the scam, and was also ordered to pay a £5,000 fine, £13,929 in court costs and £5,665 in compensation to his victims.
The now familiar scam saw cold callers promise to fix imaginary problems on Windows PCs. Jami hired workers in Indian call centres to convince victims they had a computer infection that Jamil's team could resolve.
Although such scams are now commonplace, Trading Standards said the court case would serve as a warning to other perpetrators.
"This is a landmark case, as we believe it may be the first ever successful prosecution of someone involved in the Microsoft scam in the UK," said Lord Toby Harris, chairman of the National Trading Standards Board. "It’s an important turning point for UK consumers who have been plagued by this scam, or variants of it, for several years.
"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."
According to the prosecution, Jamil warranted the court action and sentence because Trading Standards had previously warned Jamil over his running of another company - Online PC Masters - which had operated in a similar fashion in 2010.
The scam – which PC Pro first reported on four years ago – involved Indian call centre workers persuading victims to give them access to their computers.
Once they had access, they could remove security protection and fabricate potential threats before charging to remove the bogus malware.
"They then charge the consumer for installing anti-malware software that Microsoft makes available for free," Trading Standards said. "The victims in this case were charged between £35 and £150, and many were elderly."