Action Line: Consumers warned of computer virus-removal scams
BY PHIL MULKINS World Action Line Editor
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
10/16/12 at 6:54 AM
Dear Action Line: What do you know about some bogus IT support provider scam that is tricking customers into paying for removing viruses and spyware and then hijacking their computers for "denial of service" assaults? - S.V., Tulsa.
The Federal Trade Commission announced Oct. 3 it launched a major international crackdown on tech support scams involving telemarketers masquerading as major computer companies that convinced consumers their computers had viruses, spyware and malware; and charged hundreds of dollars to remotely access and "fix" them.
Honoring an FTC request, a U.S. District Court judge for the Southern District of New York halted six alleged IT support scams tulsaworld.com/FTCbogusITvirushelp , pending further hearings, and freezing their assets. This followed FTC's successful pursuit of tech support scam artists that agency chairman Jon Leibowitz said, "have taken scareware to a whole other level of virtual mayhem."
The FTC charged the operations - most based in India - targeted English-speaking consumers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and the U.K. Five of the six used telemarketing boiler rooms and a sixth lured them with Google ads appearing when they searched for ISP tech support phone numbers.
After getting them on the phone, the telemarketers allegedly claimed they were affiliated with legitimate companies such as Dell, Microsoft, McAfee and Norton; and told consumers they detected malware posing an imminent threats to their computers. To demonstrate the need for immediate help, they sent consumers to utility areas of their computers, claiming this demonstrated malware infection.
They then offered to rid the computers of malware for $49 to $450 and when consumers agreed to pay for fixing their problems the telemarketers directed them to a website to enter a code or download a software program that allowed scammers remote access to their computers. Once they took control of computers they "removed" non-existent malware and downloaded free programs containing real spyware.
FTC papers filed with the court alleged scammers attempted to avoid law enforcement detection by using virtual offices that were actually mail-forwarding facilities, and by using 80 different domain names and 130 phone numbers. The agency charged them with violating the FTC Act, which bars unfair and deceptive commercial practices, as well as the Telemarketing Sales Rule and with illegally calling Do Not Call Registry numbers. It asked the court to permanently halt the scams and order restitution for consumers.
FTC's case was aided by the Australian Communications and Media Authority and the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, both of which waged Do Not Call violations cases in their countries; and the United Kingdom's Serious Organised Crime Agency. The FTC cases targeted 14 corporate defendants and 17 individual defendants in 6 legal filings: Pecon Software Ltd., Finmaestros LLC, Zeal IT Solutions Pvt. Ltd., Virtual PC Solutions, Lakshmi Infosoul Services Pvt. Ltd., and PCCare247, Inc., and individual defendants in each of the cases.
Original Print Headline: Consumers warned of computer virus-removal scams
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