US strikes massive tech support scam

The war on tech support scams continues with the latest legal action targeting operations accused of fleecing consumers of $120 million — including one that sold “lifetime” packages for a real AV product.

Besides the millions of dollars consumers spend on freeing their files from ransomware, the other major drain on consumer spending is support scams from telemarketing outfits that claim to fix non-existent PC problems.

While the tech support scam may be an old trick the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Wednesday announced it had temporarily shut down “two massive telemarketing operations” accused of selling bogus security products that netted its operators around $120 million.

Some of the businesses placed under control of a court-appointed receiver carry names like PC Cleaner, OMG Backup, OMG Tech Help, Inbound Call Experts and downloadsoftware.com. The operators market their software through Google Adwords and software download sites.

The orders granted to the FTC link dozens of companies to two core operations that are accused of deceptively marketing and selling software purported to fix computer problems when in fact they introduced them.

“Typically, consumers download a free trial version of software that runs a computer system scan. The defendants’ software scan always identifies numerous errors on consumers’ computers, regardless of whether the computer has any performance problems,” the FTC said in a statement.

Many targets of the defendants behind PC Cleaner were senior citizens who had been urged to call an inbound call centre, where they would be duped into spending anywhere between $150 to $500 for the convenience of having the problem fixed on the spot, as opposed to taking their computer to a well-known and more expensive retailer.

Victims were typically lured to the call centres via search-based ads acquired by defendants who had established Google Adwords accounts.

As noted in one of the complaints, one trick employed by the alleged fraudsters was selling “lifetime protection at a cost of $500” for legitimate antivirus programs that are otherwise only sold under three year terms for around $82.

Another ruse was to install free malware removal tools such as Kaspersky’s TDSSKiller — a real tool that was offered by the Russian security vendor in 2012 to deal with a nasty rootkit.

The FTC’s second complaint targeted a set of companies it accused of deceptively selling software that improved the performance of PCs.

Both operations' assets have been suspended for 14 days.

The latest action by the FTC follows the permanent shutdown of a New York-based company trading as Pairsys last month, which was also accused of deceptively selling security software to senior citizens.

Read more: SynoLocker demands 0.6 Bitcoin to decrypt Synology NAS devices

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

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Tags Kaspersky’s TDSSKillerPC CleanerRussian securitytelemarkingfree malwareEnex TestLabUSGoogle Adwords accountssecurity productsFTC linkAV productscamOMG Tech Helptech support scamransomwareCSO Australia

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