14
Nov 14

‘Microsoft Partner’ Claims Fuel Support Scams

You can’t make this stuff up: A tech support company based in the United States that outsources its work to India says its brand is being unfairly maligned by — wait for it…..tech support scammers based in India. In an added twist, the U.S.-based tech support firm acknowledges that the trouble may be related to its admittedly false statements about being a Microsoft Certified Partner — the same false statements made by most telephone-based tech support scams.

Tech support scams are, unfortunately, an extremely common scourge. Most such scams are the telephonic equivalent of rogue antivirus attacks, which try to frighten consumers into purchasing worthless security software and services. Both types of scams try to make the consumer believe that the caller is somehow associated with Microsoft or with a security company, and each caller tries to cajole or scare the consumer into giving up control over his or her PC.

Earlier this month, a reader shared a link to a lengthy Youtube video by freelance journalist Carey Holzman, in which Holzman turns the tables on the tech support scammers. During the video, Holzman plays along and gives the scammer remote control access to a test computer he’s set up specifically for this video.  The scammer, who speaks with a strong Indian accent but calls himself “Steve Wilson” from the “Microsoft technical department,” tries to convince Holzman that he works for a company that is a legitimate Microsoft support partner.

“Let me show you who we are,” the scammer says, opening up Google.com and typing SB3 Inc. Clicking on the first result brings up sb3inc[dot]com, which proudly displays an icon in the upper right corner of its home page stating that it is a Microsoft Certified Partner. “This is our mother company. Can you see that we are a Microsoft certified partner?”

When Holzman replies that this means nothing and that anyone can just put a logo on their site saying they’re associated with Microsoft, the scammer runs a search on Microsoft.com for SB3. The scammer shows true chutzpah when he points to the first result, which — if clicked — leads to a page on Microsoft’s community site where members try to warn the poster away from SB3 as a scam.

When Holzman tries to get the scammer to let him load the actual search result link about SB3 on Microsoft.com, the caller closes the browser window and proceeds to enable the SysKey utility on Windows, which allows the scammer to set a secret master password that must be entered before the computer will boot into Windows (effectively an attempt at locking Holzman out of his test computer if he tries to reboot).

The video goes on for some time more, but I decided to look more closely at SB3. The Web site registration records for the company state that it is based in New Jersey, and it took less than a minute to find the Facebook page of the company’s owner — a Suvajit “Steve” Basu in Ridgewood, NJ. Basu’s Facebook feed has him traveling the world, visiting the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, the Ryder Cup in 2012, and more recently taking delivery on a brand new Porsche.

Less than 24 hours after reaching out to him on Facebook and by phone, Basu returns my call and says he’s working to get to the bottom of this. Before I let him go, I tell Basu that I can’t find on Microsoft’s Partner Site any evidence to support SB3’s claim that it is a Microsoft Certified Partner. Basu explains that while the company at one time was in fact a partner, this stopped being the case “a few months ago.” For its part, Microsoft would only confirm that SB3 is not currently a Microsoft partner of any kind.

SB3's homepage, before it removed the false "Microsoft Partner" claim.

SB3’s homepage, before it removed the false “Microsoft Partner” claim.

Basu explained that Microsoft revoked SB3’s partner status after receiving complaints that customers were being cold-called by SB3 technicians claiming to be associated with Microsoft. “Microsoft had gotten complaints and we took out all references to Microsoft as part of our script,” that the company gives to tech support callers, Basu said.

As for why SB3 still falsely claimed to be a Microsoft Partner, Basu said his instructions to take the logo down from the site had apparently been ignored by his site’s administrators.

“That was a mistake for which we do take the blame and responsibility,” Basu said in a follow-up email. “We have corrected this immediately on hearing from you and you will no longer find a mention of Microsoft on our SB3Inc Website.”

Basu said SB3 is a legitimate company based in the USA which uses off-shore manpower and expertise to sell tech support services through its iFixo arm, and that the company never participates in the sort of scammy activities depicted in Holzman’s video. Basu maintains that scammers are impersonating the company and taking advantage of its good name, and points to a section of the video where the scammer loads a payment page at support2urpc[dot]com, suggesting that Support to Your PC is the real culprit (the latter company did not return messages seeking comment).

“After viewing your video it is obvious to us that one or more persons out there are misusing our brand and good-will,” Basu wrote.”We feel horrible and feel that along with the unknowing consumers we are also victims. This is corporate identity theft.”

SB3 may well be a legitimate company that is being scammed by the scammers, but if that’s true the company has done itsself and its reputation no favors by falsely stating it is a Microsoft partner. What’s more, complaints about tech support scammers claiming to be from SB3 are numerous and date back more than a year. I find it remarkable that a tech support company with the uncommon distinction of having secured a good name in this line of work would not act more zealously to guard that reputation. Alas, a simple Internet search on the SB3 brand would have alerted the company to these shenanigans.

SB3 has since removed the Microsoft Certified Partner logo from its home page, but the image is still on its server. Running a search on that image at Tineye.com — an extremely useful image search Web site — produces more than 11,700 results. No doubt Microsoft and other scam hunters have used this investigative tool to locate tech support scams, which may explain why support2urpc[dot]com does not appear to include the same image on its site but instead claims association with sites that do.

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79 comments

  1. A couple years ago I got a call from a would-be MS support person – an Indian fellow- and while I wasn’t aware of the scams going on, his approach/method of working didn’t inspire confidence, and esp. the hard-sell (trying to scare me into thinking I had 100s of sys. errors which he said indicated massive virus infection) put me off.
    I almost felt sorry for ‘Steve Wilson’ in the video, Holzman was like a cat playing with a mouse. I wonder what the success rate of these scammers is? But then considering how many people respond to spam email, or click on ads, I guess these guys pull in enough to make a living in Delhi.

    • I don’t toy with these bastards, all it does is it proves that your willing to listen to the sales pitch and there is a chance that your name stays on the list longer, and thus, more prone to calls from them- and others.

      I usually have to words for these people when they call and then hang up with about as much noise as I can.

      As for how much they make, it depends on their target audience. The one I posted below had a combined haul of 120M dollars.

    • Are you kidding me ? Feel sorry for them scamming (steal, Rob, theft) people ? Wake up.

  2. Elois Gruenhagen

    I was scammed about a month ago. I had numbers adding up to about 1,400 problems. I knew that was not true. Then I got a big word ALERT and a phone number. When I saw the big alert sign
    I called the number. He said that he could fix my problems for $699.95. Then he would give a life time program to last for a life time. He also added that if I got a new computer the problems would follow so that would not help. He took control of my computer and then had me sign on line. He did this on Sat. night so he could get the money. When I went to the bank on Monday to stop the payment, they said it was too late and since I had signed on line, they could do nothing about it. About a week later I get a call from the same man. He said had more problems to fix. I told him I had reported him to the FTC. He hung up.

  3. There was nothing ‘nasty’ about the questions I asked him. I AM going to India and I am concerned about the things I asked so I am prepared or I might change my mind. You folks assume way too much negativity, so I’m done responding here to people looking to manipulate an objective video of an attempted burglary in progress. When you get robbed, lets see how much empathy you feel, in that moment, for the thief.

  4. Congrats on your recent appearance on CBS This Morning!

  5. A mild point, but if more courts would do this, the less the scammers would make;

    http://www.securityweek.com/court-order-shuts-down-alleged-120m-tech-support-scam

  6. “When you get robbed, lets see how much empathy you feel, in that moment, for the thief.”

    Actually what you did, if you were a cop, would be considered entrapment. So it would be like a guy looking in my window, then me inviting him into my house, purposely directing him into a room where I have a shotgun, and then shooting at him after he tries to steal said shotgun.

    • See, I knew he was unsavory to begin with (Call from MS), I still let him in my house (Directing him to a VM), direct him to a room where I have access to another weapon (directing him to a VM established just for the purpose of entrapping a suspected criminal), and then when he tried to steal my shotgun that he was eyeballing from my window (Tried to install KeyLogger) I shoot him…

      “You folks assume way too much negativity, so I’m done responding here to people looking to manipulate an objective video of an attempted burglary in progress”

      If you were a cop on trial the prosecution would have a field day with you. It has nothing to do with negativity, it has everything to do with objectivity, showing you that, even though funny, advocating vigilantism may not be such a great idea.

      You take offense to some of our comments when there is no offense to be taken.

  7. “Microsoft Tech Support” keeps calling me. About a year ago I made the mistake of giving them access to my computer. After several calls, which I blocked with Ooma, they blocked my access to Ooma so that I couldn’t block their current phone number (which they have many of). I did a rollback of my computer and changed my password. This company is in India and they use American names, saying they are located in the USA. If anyone calls from this company hang up and try to block their number.

  8. Some of these guys use auto-dialers to cold call people. I worked for a company operating an auto-dialers and I had an Indian guy call about the free trials for both dialer systems we had. After looking into the company he said he was with, I immediately notified my supervisor about what he was doing. I was told that as long as he paid I was to leave his service on. My last day was shortly after that.

  9. I had a customer of mine get a malware infection on their computer that reported the system was infected and to call 1-800-786-5071 to resolve the issue.

    The phone call was routed to India with a similar scheme to this.

    When asked why a virus infection would tell me to call this “legitimate” company, they claimed to be Microsoft partners, etc just like this story.

    The led me to their apparent website which was esupport247 which I’m not sure is actually them or if they’re taking advantage of another company’s site.

    They attempt to use TeamViewer to connect to your system.

    So in my opinion, much worse than even the cold-callers because this company is actually infecting computers with malware and THEN trying to impersonate Microsoft employees to remove the infection for a price.

  10. Funny video, but very long.
    I had them call me but was not as nice; it wasn’t Steve Wilson. I asked my new “certified technician buddy” to confirm his IP address while I rebooted and he got very angry. He called me many a mother#@%+er when I asked him to stay on the phone while the system rebooted to Kali. :( hurt my feelings. =(