In New Jersey, USA, an individual of Indian American descent has been apprehended for involvement in a technical support scam that victimized over 7,000 individuals, resulting in a total fraud amount exceeding $13 million. This was revealed by a US attorney on Thursday, 31 August.
Manoj Yadav, facing a single charge of conspiring to commit wire fraud, appeared before US Magistrate Judge José R. Almonte in the federal court in Newark.
According to US Attorney Philip R. Sellinger, ‘the defendant and his co-conspirators are alleged to have deceived their numerous victims into believing that they represented a legitimate technology support company affiliated with a major software corporation. Allegedly, after asserting that they would provide technical support for issues related to the software company’s widely used accounting software, they imposed excessively high fees on victims for support services that were not authorized by the software company.’
FBI special agent in charge James E. Dennehy stated, ‘We allege that Yadav deceived software users and compelled them to pay for services that should have been provided free of charge with their initial purchase.’
The charge of conspiring to commit wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross profit or loss caused by the offense, whichever is greater.
Dennehy added, ‘The amount he is accused of stealing from his victims and the number of victims involved may appear astonishing; nevertheless, we are witnessing a significant surge in various types of tech support scams. Fraudsters are adept at deceiving people into parting with their money, even those who believe they are too savvy to fall for such schemes. If you suspect you are a victim, please contact the FBI.’
Federal prosecutors claim that from 2017 through 2023, Yadav and many of his co-conspirators, who were primarily located in India, deceitfully presented themselves as a technology support firm associated with a major US business and accounting software company that created and distributed a widely used accounting software product.
They operated under multiple deceptive business names, including ‘Phebs Software Services, LLC,’ ‘Phebs Software Services’, ‘PN Bookkeeping Services’, ‘Phebbs Consulting’, ‘Quickbooks Tech Assist’, ‘Quickbook US’, ‘Quickbooks Accounting’, and ‘Quickbooks Support Team’.
As per court documents, the conspirators would contact victims, pretending to resolve technical problems they encountered with the accounting software. After receiving tech support from these fraudsters under false pretenses, victims were either charged exorbitant fees or additional subscription fees.
All of these ‘services’ were fraudulent, as genuine customers contacting the actual software company did not incur any additional charges, and the software company never authorized Yadav or his co-conspirators to act on its behalf or to impose fees.
Yadav personally participated in the scheme by billing victims for these deceitful technology support services and channeling millions of dollars from these victims to his co-conspirators. It is alleged that he fraudulently acquired these funds through Phebs Software Services, LLC, an entity he had established. This entity operated under the names Phebs Software Services, and Quickbooks Accounting.
Yadav also employed these entity names to falsely present himself to banks and victimized customers as a legitimate accounting company affiliated with the software company. This was done to prevent chargebacks, complaints to the Better Business Bureau, and the closure of bank accounts. The allegation further claims that Yadav retained approximately 17 per cent of the funds when transferring them to his co-conspirators, sending over $13 million in ill-gotten gains.