Â The FTC froze assets of 14 companies charged with impersonating tech support from large corporations such as Microsoft, Symantec, Dell, Google and others.
Following 40,000 fraud complaints, the FTC plugged six rings of scammers that operated from India and called people in the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and the U.K. The scammers convinced consumers theyâ€™re infected with a virus, then offered to remove it for fees ranging from $49 to $450.
“The tech support scam artists we are talking about today have taken scareware to a whole other level of virtual mayhem,” said Jon Leibowitz, FTC Chairman.
While five of the scamming companies used telemarketers, the sixth used Google ads to appear on results when people search for tech support. Almost $1 million in ads were paid to Google so customers would reach the scammerâ€™s tech support.
By tricking users into giving scammers remote control over computers, the installed antivirus solution was removed and then replaced with a similar free product. The FTC said in 2008 another scammer was fined with $163 million after charting users with fees ranging from $40 to $60.
â€œIn 2008, as part of the FTCâ€™s efforts to protect consumers from spyware and malware, the FTC charged [Kristy] Ross and six other defendants with conning more than one million consumers into buying software to remove malware supposedly detected by computer scans,â€ says the FTC. â€œThe bogus â€œscansâ€ would then urge consumers to buy the defendantsâ€™ software for $40 to $60 to clean off the malware.â€
The coordinated actions that lead to the takedown of the six scamming tech support companies send a strong message to all scammers, believes CRTC Chief Compliance and Enforcement Officer Andrea Rosen.