By Brian Maass

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – Sentenced to five years in federal prison for engineering an internet computer scam, an immigrant from India, Safder Iqbal, is still interested in profiting from his crimes. Contacted by CBS4 and asked to discuss his scams, Iqbal wrote back, “If you are really interested to get to know about the scams, so what your offer for me which can help me in future and present. Shot me your best offer. I will be waiting for your reply.”

In another letter laced with misspellings, Iqbal asked, “Also could you please kindly let me know if there would be any monetory benifits to me from the interview and how much it would be.”

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Safder Iqbal (credit: CBS)

Federal prosecutors say Iqbal made plenty of money, an estimated $377,000 in running what is known as a refund scam and a “tech support scam” from Colorado Springs.

Iqbal came to the United States from India in 2018 to work at a hotel in Colorado Springs. The U.S. Attorney in Denver says for the next two years, Iqbal ran a number of different computer scams, victimizing older Americans.

“It’s pretty clear this scam was on his mind when he arrived here in the U.S.,” said U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn.

In one con, the so-called tech support scam, victims were tricked into believing they had a serious computer problem. They found out about the phony problem from a pop-up window on their computer which would lead the victims to a number for tech support.

Calls to the number would be answered by another scammer who would then diagnose the computer problem and talk the victim into giving the con artists access to the victims’ computer through remote access software.

The phony agents would then ask for money to perform the unnecessary tech support services.

“You just shake your head and wonder how people fall for it, but it happens every day,” Dunn said.

He said it was rare to track down and arrest someone in Colorado running this kind of computer scam as they typically originate in other countries.

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“It’s very difficult to make actual arrests and even more difficult to get restitution because the money instantly moves overseas,” said Dunn.

(credit: CBS)

But Iqbal’s case was different. As he scammed older victims across the U.S. from his Colorado Springs base, investigators were able to locate him and eventually arrest him.

The Federal Trade Commission said in 2018, people reported losing about $55 million in tech support scams and those over the age of 60 were about five times more likely to lose money to these cheat schemes.

One of the victims was Dunn’s mother.

“My own mother fell victim to this,” recounted Dunn. He said she got a fake email from Amazon. “They said in order to refund this we need to prove where you are by you going and getting gift cards at the grocery store and reading the numbers on the back, and she fell for that.”

Dunn said his mother lost about $500 to the scam and calls what happened to her “a head slapper.”

Iqbal, doing his time at a prison in Oklahoma, wrote in one of his letters, “My current priority is to go back home as soon as possible.”

Additional tips from The Federal Trade Commission to avoid being scammed:

  • Do not click any links or call a number that pops up on your screen warning of a computer problem.
  • Hang up on unexpected calls from anyone who claims to be tech support.
  • Don’t believe your caller ID – it can be easily spoofed.
  • Never give control of your computer or share passwords with anyone who contacts you.
  • Keep your security software up to date.
  • If you need help, contact a computer technician that you trust. Don’t just rely on an online search.

The FTC also says if you’ve been scammed, change any passwords you shared and scan your computer for malware. If you gave your credit card number, tell the credit card company. Check your statement and contact your credit card company to reverse the charges for bogus services. If you later get a call about a supposed refund, you can bet that’s part two of the same scam – hang up.

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Report tech support scams to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. To learn more, visit ftc.gov/techsupportscams.

Brian Maass