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Microsoft dumps partner over support call scam

  • tech support
  • Comantra screenshot

By Nicole Kobie

Posted on 21 Sep 2011 at 11:38

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.

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User comments

Gold Partner GIF

Well, it seems they are slow to instruct them to remove the animated GIF which still displays Gold Partner status.. hmm.. (it's still there now 21/09/11 @12pm).

By CJPocoLoco on 21 Sep 2011

Word

About time. My 'real life# next door neighbour received such a call and thankfully stated that once his neighbour (me) arrived home he'd resolve any issues. The caller was actually quite pushy.

I wonder how many fell for this scam?

By rhythm on 21 Sep 2011

Got called five+ times

Including three times in an afternoon. HAd to disconnect the phone because the b*****d kept phoning back to swear at me.

By ANTIcarr0t on 21 Sep 2011

Only one company?

From the various people that have told me and the reports I've seen, the company in question doesn't identify itself.

How many are running this scam?
Is it only Comantra?

By greemble on 21 Sep 2011

I feel left out...

I've never had one of these calls, and like most people reading this site I'd like to think that I would know it was a scam.

I'd quite like to waste some of their time...

"What's that? The credit card number I've given you isn't valid? Let me try another, hold on a moment..."

By StuartN on 21 Sep 2011

@greemble There are many groups running this same cold-calling routine, some worse than others. I doubt most start by announcing their names, but quite a few people are onto this now, and have learned to ask. Comantra seems to have been caught up for using Microsoft's brand name in its pitches.

By Nicole_Kobie on 21 Sep 2011

Microsoft Support

I have had at least half a dozen of these calls all claiming to be from Microsoft Support. sometimes they show a UK style number but it is false, other times they do not show a number at all. I have wasted their time when it suits me but as others have said they are often offensive and have a grasp of Anglo Saxon that lies poorly with their real origin in India. I wonder if they will now hang up, but I doubt it I suspect that I have had two in the last few days but 'did not reach the phone in time to deal with them. The only virus is the one that they represent on the phone!

By Jonesr18 on 21 Sep 2011

These jokers phoned me last week, I taped it, result-comedy gold.

I'll try and edit it down and share it later....

By AGRS_Rocky on 21 Sep 2011

Cautious

Don't forget, Microsoft have to investigate and be 100% certain that it is the partner that is doing the scamming.

If they do not have definite proof, they cannot name the partner or remove their Gold status, even if they "suspect" that they are involved, otherwise they leave themselves open to being sued.

The wheels of justice turn slowly sometimes.

But removing Gold status won't stop them, that requires the authorities in the UK and India to work together and put a stop to this.

That said, it will then probably move to another company or another country.

By big_D on 22 Sep 2011

kelsoguy

I have had many calls from this lot,and they are very insistant and pushy.The first time they took control of my comp by remote and showed me all that was wrong but i would not let them fix it.After the comp kept flashing up scary messages,i had to do a comlete reinstall to stop them.They keep on phoning me though and wont take no for an answer.

By kelsoguy on 22 Sep 2011

@ jonesr18

"they [...] have a grasp of Anglo Saxon that lies poorly with their real origin in India"
Anglo Saxon? Does that sentence have its origin in India?
:P

By dubiou on 22 Sep 2011

Tech Calls

I am a technician and have had a few calls from my customers to say they were contacted, I have even had one customer pay because he thought it was Microsoft calling. I just explain that Microsoft would never call you about your computer to repair it, That was my job.

By monge69 on 22 Sep 2011

About time this was stopped

I repair computers, having worked in IT since 1975. I have been called by them 4 times now - on the last occasion, when I said they were breaking the law, they swore at me before hanging up.
One of my customers was going to be charged £200 before they decided to come to me.

By geoffmarch on 22 Sep 2011

Anglo Saxon

dubiou -An oft used euphemism for rude, offensive language often of a sexual nature, may also contain suggestions about travel. Are you one of them or an agent for them?

By Jonesr18 on 22 Sep 2011

Answer to only one caller?

I have been called by a company called Global Tech, the caller with a very heavy Asian accent but English name offering the same service. Readers here are computer literate so should know of this scam, but members of my Rotary club, business people have been taken in.

By nlpnow on 22 Sep 2011

Gold Status removal?

What does that mean; does it mean they are no longer a partner, or are they a 'silver' partner now? They ought to be prosecuted. I work for one of the biggest ISP's in the UK and I can tell you they targetted vulnerable people with the tacticts described and were belligerent to boot.

By SabreT on 22 Sep 2011

Answer to only one caller?

I have been called by a company called Global Tech, the caller with a very heavy Asian accent but English name offering the same service. Readers here are computer literate so should know of this scam, but members of my Rotary club, business people have been taken in.

By nlpnow on 22 Sep 2011

Scum. Utter Scum.

They've tried this on my Wife and my in-laws.

I contacted the Police and Fraud office, neither of which appear to have done anything.

I did, however, have the satisfaction of asking them how it felt to make a living being deceitful and having no honour (well, they were all from india), and what they did when they weren't picking peanuts out of you-know-what.

If you feel like a laugh, troll their online chat support at their website - it always cheers me up :-)

By Torquemada on 22 Sep 2011

Not only MS

I was called by a firm claiming to be ntlworld. Same idea, since I have not Windows at all apart from a VM, I had an entertaining half hour being an incompetent user who was eager to buy their product but somehow could never quite follow their instructions.

By nerak99 on 22 Sep 2011

Only yesterday

I had a lady come in after being charged £80 for "removing viruses" by Microsofty over the telephone.

I think it's more worrying that people fall for this scam.

By JStairmand on 22 Sep 2011

gobsmacked

I had no idea they were authorised scammers. I have been called several times - been told it was imperative that I have the cleanup done. I wouldn't let them anywhere near my PC tho i had wondered how they knew which OS I was using. I thought they'd just guessed. They should have to return every penny they have scammed. And there should have been a much better publicised warning and action much earlier.

By dilbar on 22 Sep 2011

Quick thinkers

I recently received a telephone call for the previous resident, an elderly lady. I've lived here for four years now, so whatever records these scammers are using are evidently quite stale.

I'll give the would-be thief credit, though: when I told him there was no-one here by that name he gamely rallied and told me that he'd detected a signal which told him there was something wrong with my windows. I guess it wasn't so important to speak to the previous occupant after all.

I sadly had to go out a couple of minutes later, so I did not have time to string this crook along. I'm sure he'd have had great fun trying to troubleshoot my double-glazing.

By AlexM on 22 Sep 2011

They Still claim GOLD status on Facebook!!!

Does anyone know how to get them off Facebook???

http://facebook.com/comantra

I had a 45 minute comedic chat with these idiots about 6 months ago where at the end of their performance they asked me to go to PCcure.net which also links to comantra to enable remote access, at which point I lied to them and told them I was a fraud investigator for MS at which point they hung up and haven't called me since.

By Code_B on 22 Sep 2011

I've been called several times. The last one said he represented 'Windows Support'. Even after I told them I ran Linux, and called them a bunch of scammers, and liars straight out, they still continued with their script regardless. I went along with one of them - he wanted me to go to aammyy.com - presumably to take over control of my PC. I phoned BT to complain - they say that they are aware of the scam, but can't trace the calls. I find it difficult to believe that BT can't trace a call. They did offer my caller ID for free, though, so something good came out of it.

By goalpost on 22 Sep 2011

something similar happened to me

but when I didn't want it, the company somehow shoved some lovely viruses and other malware down my throat and now won't remove it without me paying for something Microsoft gives for free.

By Gryfkat on 22 Sep 2011

I've been called several times. The last one said he represented 'Windows Support'. Even after I told them I ran Linux, and called them a bunch of scammers, and liars straight out, they still continued with their script regardless. I went along with one of them - he wanted me to go to aammyy.com - presumably to take over control of my PC. I phoned BT to complain - they say that they are aware of the scam, but can't trace the calls. I find it difficult to believe that BT can't trace a call. They did offer my caller ID for free, though, so something good came out of it.

By goalpost on 22 Sep 2011

They Still claim GOLD status on Facebook!!!

Does anyone know how to get them off Facebook???

http://facebook.com/comantra

I had a 45 minute comedic chat with these idiots about 6 months ago where at the end of their performance they asked me to go to PCcure.net which also links to comantra to enable remote access, at which point I lied to them and told them I was a fraud investigator for MS at which point they hung up and haven't called me since.

By Code_B on 22 Sep 2011

Picking up the pieces

OMG hard to believe this mess was caused through a partner. I was picking up the pieces of this scam for weeks, dealing with users who had little PC knowledge and had come away shocked and felt under threat by aggressive treatment.

Sad, shocking and horribly slow to respond.

MS need to realise they are TOO BIG and put in some new hyper focussed "Special Ops teams" to get to the bottom of all the lethargy.

By Gindylow on 22 Sep 2011

Yet the calls continue

I blogged about these calls last year (http://wp.me/p9XZ7-ms) and get 20-30 hits a day from people googling technical department of windows, just look at the comment stream.

By bigtamtheman on 22 Sep 2011

Similar Calls in California

Don't know who the company was, but I got similar calls in California. Told them to bug off.

By California on 22 Sep 2011

18 September 2011

Called by India nerd informing me I had a problem with my PC. The other information was that my ISP was BT who were aware of the problem. Could hear conversation in the background... Which indicated that this operative was an Indian call centre handling calls for BT, which meant he had all the information needed to run this scam... But being a multiple operating system user I asked him what was the problem with little penguin. After listening for about 5 to 10 minutes to background noise and his drivel I heard other operators using BT's name as a customer service. Would not be the first time BT information has been made freely available for scams, the worrying things is they don't do nowt about it! Cost is all that matters it does not matter if your personal details or bank information is used and sold on as long as they make money!

By graybe on 22 Sep 2011

I have got to the stage where I want to start swearing whenever I hear an Indian voice on my phone. There is a but, I have some Indian friends so I have to be careful. The give away is when, "A voice", after an electronic pause, starts jabbering away and tells you their name is a good old English name. That is when I usually let fly.

Seriously though, this Indian scamming is a major problem. It is an invasion of privacy, theft, misuse of the telephone system which was/is an offence and insults intelligent people who find they are being robbed in their own homes. BT just bleat the same old claptrap that they have no jurisdiction over foreign calls even though we have asked for cold selling calls to be blocked on our phone. The shear scale of what is going on should be enough to spur the police to action. I suppose it just counts as silent financial fraud and the police don't do that sort of thing do they?

I have been getting 4-5 calls a week (at least) for about three years now. The best that BT can offer is to change my number. Fat lot of good that would do if the calls originate from companies who have access to BT's customer base. I would be changing our number once a week.

Now that our telephone systems are computerised one has to ask why the telcos do not use their computing power to block these calls. I suppose the same system could be used by social do gooders for censorship. Of course there is the problem of finding the call originator numbers which probably change by the minute. Perhaps BT could hire an Indian company to listen into calls coming from India and monitor them?

Your article mentions vulnerable people. I am getting to the age where I just might fall into this category and I can say that Indians are not alone in having a go at either me or my wife. British based insurance companies, power utilities and so on keep chancing thier arms to see if we will sign up to some sort of dodgy deal. Fortunately these people soon back off when rebuffed politely. Not so the Indians, they just keep coming at you with the same old scams in the hope that you will give in. This presumably when your alzheimers is sufficiently advanced.

By fred1066 on 22 Sep 2011

And what about HelpPCOnline?

So what about 'companies' like HelpPCOnline who also claim to be a Microsoft partner and charge not £150 but £299 a year? Their website is currently blocked by Websense as 'Phishing and Other Frauds' and yet they continume to cold call and operate in the UK unhindered?

By breeze on 23 Sep 2011

Just to clarify...

It seems kelsoguy learned the hard way: NEVER allow these people - whoever they claim to be - access to remote control your computer. NEVER hand over your credit card details.

Many elderly, computer illeterate or vulnerable ones in particular may feel intimidated and even threatened by the sharp practices employed by these con merchants. The thought of having a 'security issue' or a 'virus' on their computer may seem like a scary prospect. Be assured that they very likely do not know anything about your computer (e.g. the operating system you are running - 90%+ of the world runs Windows - or that your PC has a fault, virus or some other security problem) other than what YOU tell them. So don't fall for their story/threat and don't give them any information of any kind. If in doubt, talk to Trading Standards or a friend or relative that you trust.

By breeze on 23 Sep 2011

reported on facebook

Someone asks "Does anyone know how to get them off Facebook???"

http://facebook.com/comantra

Actually, they are using a personal profile for a business which is against Facebook rules.
Just look for the small settings drop down icon on their profile page and select Report/Block. Then choose "This profile is pretending to be someone or is fake" then "Does not represent a real person".
Job Done.

By MikeyPro on 23 Sep 2011

I also received a call from these people who claimed that they had been notified by Windows that I was having issues with Windows? As I actually am having problems I continued to listen, after being passed by the first operator to someone "Technical" he kept asking for remote access to my PC to show me the issues. Refusing this he then went through talking me through looking at the services and saying that viruses had stopped several of these and he could fix this for £80.
At that point I hung up ...

By belcol on 23 Sep 2011

Facebook page

They also have a business facebook page at http://on.fb.me/ngysqQ
But still shows GOLD Partner status

By MikeyPro on 23 Sep 2011

Just to clarify...

It seems kelsoguy learned the hard way: NEVER allow these people - whoever they claim to be - access to remote control your computer. NEVER hand over your credit card details.

Many elderly, computer illeterate or vulnerable ones in particular may feel intimidated and even threatened by the sharp practices employed by these con merchants. The thought of having a 'security issue' or a 'virus' on their computer may seem like a scary prospect. Be assured that they very likely do not know anything about your computer (e.g. the operating system you are running - 90%+ of the world runs Windows - or that your PC has a fault, virus or some other security problem) other than what YOU tell them. So don't fall for their story/threat and don't give them any information of any kind. If in doubt, talk to Trading Standards or a friend or relative that you trust.

By breeze on 23 Sep 2011

Over

is this over?
or still on?

By random on 24 Sep 2011

Over

is this over?
or still on?

By random on 24 Sep 2011

yeah it's about time these scams are put out of business! they're even using Microsoft to cover up for their acts?!

By BlueRose on 10 Oct 2011

if you look into this site, http://www.callercenter.com,you see a lot of these scams trying to trick a lot of people. and what's alarming is that these scammers sound professional and courteous over the phone, so if you're a person who's not aware of these scams, you'd probably fall.

By BlueRose on 10 Oct 2011

Took an International call this morning from some guy called Albert. Did not say he was calling from MS but claimed he was from a company called Windows Operating System. Is this a new approach by the scammers? Said I had a virus etc. I just hung up but I worry about the less technically minded receiving these calls.

By samspaniel on 2 Nov 2011

Comantra call

Got another fake support call from Comatra today at noon. They still claim to have something to do with Microsoft, and deny that the reports of wrongdoing are related to them. "We're Comantra e-solutions, those reports relate to another company".

Surprisingly, they don't tend to hang up if you spend ten minutes telling them they're lying, cheating, good-for-noting scum whose only aim is to steal, cheat and con.

By AndrewJW on 14 Nov 2011

Ongoing

Got a call from 02538020308 today, and recorded it. Why isn't the police interested in stopping this?

By robot786 on 11 Feb 2012

Comantra Phone Call

I got a call from that company and took One Time remote tech support for installation of MS Office and configuration of MS Outlook. They charged me $54.99 for that. So I don't have any issue with them and their services also. I am really happy using services of Comantra.

By Mark_USA on 2 Mar 2012

Robyn

Looks like they've hit DownUnder Australia. Not using Comantra, but are saying everything else, so am finding all these posts very interesting. They did get into my computer, which is now fixed after they turned all security off.
Police won't do anything as its too widespread but not extorting enough cash in one hit.
I play with them now and that's kinda fun.

By Robyn on 11 Sep 2012

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