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Four UK residents are under arrest, accused of perpetrating Microsoft tech support scams, officials said.

A 37-year-old man and 35-year-old woman living in South Shields ended up arrested Tuesday, said North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU) officials. Authorities later released those two individuals pending further inquiries.

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That same day, Surrey and Sussex Police Cyber Crime Unit arrested 29-year-old man and a 31-year-old woman in Woking. Those two have since posted bail.

The arrests follow a two-year investigation conducted by Microsoft and City of London Police into computer software service fraud. Officers took all four individuals into police custody on suspicion they helped perpetrate tech support scams against unsuspecting users.

Cyber Security

A common tech support scam, otherwise known as computer software service fraud, is when a person contacts a user, tells them there’s something wrong with their computer, and convinces them to authorize remote access to their machine. In some cases, the bad actor abuses that access to install malicious software, adjust some settings in such a way that leaves the user’s computer vulnerable to malware, or direct the user to a web page that tricks them into handing over their financial information. In other instances, the scammer fools the user into paying for a phony piece of software.

Action Fraud, the United Kingdom’s national fraud reporting service, received 34,504 reports of computer software service fraud in the 2016-17 financial year. Victims in those cases lost an average of $780 (£600). The average age of those who fell for the scams was 62.

Microsoft’s Hugh Milward said the software giant will continue its work with law enforcement agencies in their pursuit of tech support scammers.

Users can protect themselves against tech support scammers by never giving control of their computers to a third party unless they contact a company’s tech support service directly and by closely guarding their financial information. If users think they’ve fallen victim to a tech support scam, they should change their passwords and scan their computers using a reputable anti-virus solution.

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