Pianist loses over $6 million in bizarre computer virus-related scam

Filed Under: Law & order, Malware

Roger Davidson, pianist
A court has heard that a couple conned at least $6 million from the great-grandson of an oil industry tycoon after he brought his virus-infected computer in for repair.

Although the victim's name has not been released by the authorities, the media has named him as jazz pianist and composer Roger Davidson, an heir of oil tycoon Conrad Schlumberger.

According to media reports, prosecutors in Westchester, New York, charged 36-year-old Vickram Bedi and his girlfriend Helga Invarsdottir. The couple are said to have tricked the composer into believing that while investigating the virus they had found evidence that his life was in danger.

Bedi and his 39-year-old girlfriend were arrested last week at their home in Chappaqua, as they were preparing to leave for Iceland.

Now, you're not going to believe this next bit. I didn't at first either.

Bedi and Invarsdottir
Over the course of six years, Bedi and Invarsdottir are said to have extorted at least $6 million from Davidson - although police chiefs have claimed the full figure could be as much as $20 million - demanding up to $160,000 per month in protection money.

According to reports, the suspects concocted a bizarre story that the virus had been tracked to a hard drive in Honduras, and that evidence had been found that the composer's life was in danger.

Bedi is said to have told Davidson that he was working on behalf of the CIA. Their mission? To prevent a gang of Polish priests affiliated with Opus Dei from attempting to harm the jazz composer.

Stories don't get much more oddball than this, but they underline the importance for all of us to be on guard against scams. Although the typical readers of the Naked Security site may be savvy and clued-up, can you honestly say that the same is true of every member of your family or social circle?

Could there be an elderly or vulnerable person close to you who uses the internet, and might easily be hoodwinked by merciless scammers?

It's the responsibility of all of us to not just defend our computers, but also to protect those more vulnerable than ourselves.

Bedi and Invarsdottir are being held by the authorities in lieu of $3 million cash bail.

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2 Responses to Pianist loses over $6 million in bizarre computer virus-related scam

  1. Peter · 1444 days ago

    Actually, my elderly online friends laughed out loud when I forwarded this story.

    There are scammers on every street corner - if a person is gullible enough
    to fall for these crazy stories, this has nothing to do with computer security,
    but with plain stupidity.

    And there's no cure or internet security suite available to correct a lack of common sense.

  2. Paul · 1444 days ago

    Exact same thing happened me a few times :(

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About the author

Graham Cluley runs his own award-winning computer security blog, and is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Send Graham an email, subscribe to his updates on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and App.net, and circle him on Google Plus for regular updates.