FTC takes out “tech support” scammers; $5.1 million in fines, retribution

Fraudsters masqueraded as Dell, Microsoft, McAfee, Norton and others

While a number of these scams still persist, the Federal Trade Commission today said it got a US District court to slap the operators of several international tech support rip-offs to pay more than $5.1 million in fines and retribution on charges they masqueraded as major computer companies, including Dell, Microsoft, McAfee, and Norton, to trick consumers into believing their computers were riddled with malware and then charge them to “fix” the “problems.”

 The FTC said that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued default judgments against fourteen corporate defendants and fourteen individual defendants that allegedly operated the tech support scams. The operations were mostly based in India and targeted English-speaking consumers in the United States and several other countries, the FTC stated.

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The default judgments permanently ban the defendants from marketing any computer security-related technical support service.  The judgments also ban them from continuing their deceptive tactics and from disclosing, selling or failing to dispose of information they obtained from victims. The cases, which we part of a 2012 FTC crackdown on such tech support scams included:

According to the FTC the scammers in some cases directed consumers to a utility area of their computer and falsely claimed that it demonstrated that the computer was infected.  The scammers then offered to rid the computer of malware for fees ranging from $49 to $450.  When consumers agreed to pay the fee for fixing the “problems,” the telemarketers directed them to a website to enter a code or download a software program that allowed the scammers remote access to the consumers’ computers.  Once the telemarketers took control of the consumers’ computers, they “removed” the non-existent malware and downloaded otherwise free programs.

pecon sample even view FTC

Sample Event Viewer log used as part of the scheme

FTC papers filed with the court alleged that the scammers hoped to avoid detection by consumers and law enforcers by using virtual offices that were actually just mail-forwarding facilities, and by using 80 different domain names and 130 different phone numbers.

While the FTC has been battling this scam its clear from a glance at recent news reports, much work is left to be done. Read here and here and here for just a few examples.

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