Have you ever been scammed by a tech support service claiming you have computer issues just so the techs can get into your wallet? Many people have -- and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is working to put a stop to it.
The FTC and the State of Florida tagged teamed on an effort that led to a federal court shutting down, at least temporarily, two telemarketing scammers that used deceptive marketing practices to outright steal over $120 million from tens of thousands of consumers.
“These operations prey on consumers’ lack of technical knowledge with deceptive pitches and high-pressure tactics to sell useless software and services to the tune of millions of dollars,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “There’s no excuse for it, and we are pleased the court has taken steps to temporarily shut down these scams while our lawsuit proceeds.”
Beware of This Scam
Since at least 2012, the defendants have used software designed to trick consumers into thinking there are problems with their computers, according to FTC complaints. These same consumers were then put under heavy pressure with false sales pitches for tech support products and services to fix computer problems they didn’t really have.
Each scam starts with computer software that pretends to “enhance” the security or performance of the victims' computers. Usually, the scammers instruct consumers to download free trial versions of software that run computer system scans. Of course, those software scans always identify issues on consumers' computers, even if there aren’t any.
The software maker then informs victims that they need to buy the paid versions of their tools to fix the issues. However, the FTC said the defendants have designed the scans to note hundreds or thousands of errors that are completely bogus. Once consumers purchase the full programs, which typically costs anywhere from $29 to $49, the software instructs them to call toll-free numbers to active the programs. When they call, telemarketers try to sell them more services using various scare tactics.
Wait, It Gets Worse
It gets worse from there. The telemarketers tell the victims that they have to give them remote access to their computers to activate the software, the FTC said. Then the telemarketers read a scripted sales pitch that walks victims through the supposed problems with their computers. The FTC said that the telemarketers show users screens, like the Windows Event Viewer, and deceptively claim the screens indicate significant damage on their computers. Once the victims are convinced they need help, the telemarketers pitch security software and tech support services that can run $500.
Defendants listed in two cases include Florida-based Inbound Call Experts, Florida-based Vast Tech Support, and Boston-based Boost Software.
The FTC’s two complaints allege that the defendants violated Section 5 of the FTC Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule and the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
Posted: 2014-11-20 @ 2:57pm PT
Slow response to citizens' complaints about scammers still allows telemarketers to harass the public in their efforts to rob us.
Posted: 2014-11-20 @ 2:38pm PT
I blame Microsoft for making such poor software that this junk is even needed or should be of concern. Entire industries exist because the Microsoft security model is wide open by default and buggy I think by design.
Posted: 2014-11-20 @ 2:26pm PT
No, it's the complete incompetence of the antivirus and security industry that makes the industry look bad. This is still just a continuation of the 180Solutions technique that began almost 12 years ago.
Posted: 2014-11-20 @ 2:17pm PT
It's idiots like this that make the industry look bad.