FTC bombs online tech support scammers

Scammers pretended to be representatives of Dell, Microsoft, McAfee and Norton to bilk consumers

scammers faux problem log
The Federal Trade Commission today said it cracked down on tech support scammers who used telemarketers masquerading as major computer companies including Dell, Microsoft, McAfee and Norton to con consumers into believing that their computers are riddled with viruses, spyware and other malware.

The companies of course would then charge hundreds of dollars to "fix" or "remove" the problems. 

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The FTC had a U.S. District Court judge halt to six alleged tech support scams --  mostly based in India - which targeted English-speaking consumers in the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and the U.K.  According to the FTC, five of the six alledged scammers used telemarketing boiler rooms to call consumers and the sixth lured consumers by placing ads with Google.  Pending further hearings, the assets of Pecon Software Ltd., Finmaestros LLC,  Zeal IT Solutions Pvt. Ltd., Virtual PC Solutions, Lakshmi Infosoul Services Pvt. Ltd., and PCCare247, Inc., have all been frozen.

According to the FTC, after getting the consumers on the phone, the telemarketers allegedly claimed they were affiliated with legitimate companies and told consumers they had detected malware that posed an imminent threat to their computers.

 "To demonstrate the need for immediate help, the scammers 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," the FTC stated. 

The FTC said the scammers sought to escape detection by using virtual offices that were actually just mail-forwarding facilities  and by using 80 different domain names and 130 different phone numbers.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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