'Tech Support Scams' Raked in Tens of Millions, FTC Charges
Friday, October 5, 2012
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced that it has taken six law enforcement actions to disrupt a recent rash of so-called tech-support scams.
"In these outrageous scams, you get a call from someone who claims to be from Microsoft or Symantec. After getting a fee of $450 or more, the person then claims to remove the phantom badware from your machine," FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said at a news conference today.
"Most of the scams are based in India," Leibowitz said. "They have fleeced consumers of tens of millions of dollars and numerous do-not-call violations in the United States."
Leibowitz said that a federal court this week imposed temporary restraining orders against six scams involving 14 companies and 17 individual defendants. The restraining orders effectively shut down the companies.
Leibowitz said the defendants cold-called consumers. They also purchased ads from Google using common brand names including Microsoft, Symantec, McAfee and Norton to gather potential victims. In the calls to consumers, the scam artists claimed to have received an automatic notification from the person's computer reporting a problem. They told their potential victims to go to their computer and look at a file that show "warning messages."
The messages were actually routine notifications in the utility area of the computer.
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.
Joining in this action were the Australia Communication and Media Authority, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission and Microsoft Corp.