Microsoft dumps partner over support call scam

21 Sep 2011

PC Pro exclusive: IT support firm Comantra has its Gold status revoked following reports of cold-calling scam

Exclusive: Microsoft has thrown out one of its "Gold status" partners after finding it was taking part in a tech support scam.

Regular readers of PC Pro will be aware of the story: in March of last year, we broke the news that cold-calling scammers were phoning users and claiming to have detected viruses on their PCs.

The callers claim to be from Microsoft or associated with the company, and offer to remove the malware for a cost - with some charging as much as £185.

Following an investigation, the allegations were confirmed and we took action to terminate our relationship with the partner

Despite as many as a quarter of web users in the UK saying they'd been contacted by fake IT support, Microsoft didn't publicly address the issue until this summer.

Now, it has revoked the "Gold" status of one of its partners, India-based support firm Comantra, following reports it was cold-calling potential victims.

"We were made aware of a matter involving one of the members of the Microsoft Partner Network acting in a manner that caused us to raise concerns about this member's business practices," a Microsoft spokesman said in a statement. "Following an investigation, the allegations were confirmed and we took action to terminate our relationship with the partner in question and revoke their Gold status."

"There are no circumstances under which we would ever allow partners or any other organisations to pose as Microsoft," the spokesman added. "We view matters such as these extremely seriously and take immediate action if such behaviour is brought to our attention and found to be the case."

Reader report

PC Pro was alerted to Microsoft's move by a reader, who may take issue with the company's claims of "immediate action". The reader, who prefers to remain anonymous, told us he has been "trying for the past six months to get Microsoft to recognise the seriousness of this issue".

Comantra screenshot

Indeed, the Comantra calls have been reported online as far back as 2009 on multiple blogs and forums and even recordings on YouTube - including Microsoft's own advice site.

"This company boasted Microsoft 'Gold partner' status and always told me in emails and telephone calls, when I challenged them, that what it was doing was legal," our reader said, adding he first became aware of it when a family friend was called. "This was despite the fact that they were calling vulnerable people at home, telling them that they had a computer problem, then charging them by credit/debit card to 'fix' it."

Comantra response

Comantra's director Rajesh Bajaj said Microsoft's move was "not expected" and denied it was scamming users, saying online reports were the result of "negative marketing" from competitors.

He told PC Pro his staff have a sales script they are expected to stick to, which offers the people they call a computer "health check". He denied his staff are currently telling people their computers have viruses or other security issues, but said he couldn't comment on our reader's complaint as he didn't know the full details.

"Quality is now the biggest priority, which we are focusing on," Bajaj said, adding Comantra was speaking to Microsoft to get the decision overturned and regain its partner status.

Read more

News