News : FTC Shuts Down Bogus Tech Support Scams
Nov 20, 2014 -- The next time something is wrong with your computer, make sure the company you're dealing with is legit, or you could wind up being scammed out of your hard-earned cash, the FTC has warned.
The advice comes amidst a crackdown on phony tech support companies that allegedly trick users into paying for tech support services they didn't actually need, and for software that was otherwise available for free. At the FTC's request, federal judges have shut down New York-based Pairsys, Florida-based Inbound Call Experts, and Florida-based Vast Tech Support pending trial, the consumer protection agency announced Wednesday.
According to the FTC, Pairsys has scammed nearly $2.5 million from users and Inbound Call Experts and Vast Tech Support together conned tens of thousands of consumers out of more than $120 million since 2012.
The scammers behind Pairsys allegedly cold-called consumers pretending to be representatives from Microsoft and Facebook, and purchased online ads that lead users to believe they were calling from legit tech support companies. Once they had access to a consumer's computer, they would say they discovered viruses and malware, which in reality did not exist, and in some cases implied that the computer was so badly compromised that it needed to be repaired immediately.
They "targeted seniors and other vulnerable populations, preying on their lack of computer knowledge to sell 'security' software and programs that had no value at all," Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's consumer protection bureau, said in a statement.
Pairsys then pressured users into paying for bogus warranty programs and software that was freely available, usually scamming them out of anywhere from $149 to $249, but in some cases as much as $600.
Meanwhile, the two Florida companies — Inbound Call Experts and Vast Tech Support — ran "massive telemarketing operations" to scam users out of money to fix nonexistent computer problems. The scam started when a user downloaded a free trial version of software that purported to enhance computer security and performance. The software ran a "system scan" and always identified numerous errors, then instructed users to pay for the "full" version of the program for anywhere between $29 and $49 to fix the problems.
From there, the user was told to call a toll-free number to activate the software. When the consumer called the activation number, they were connected to a telemarketer who tried to sell additional computer and repair services using "deceptive scare tactics."
"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," Rich said.
In light of these scams, the FTC has issued some tips to help users avoid falling victim. For starters, don't give control of your computer to anyone who says they need to activate software, or anyone who calls you out of the blue claiming to be from tech support.
If you think you paid for bogus tech support services or software with a credit card, call your bank and see if you can have the charges reversed, then inform the FTC. Change any passwords you gave out.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is an independent agency of the United States government, established in 1914 by the Federal Trade Commission Act. Its principal mission is the promotion of consumer protection and the elimination and prevention of anti-competitive business practices, such as coercive monopoly.
Published: Monday, November 24, 2014