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FTC cracks down on technical support scammers

Starts major operation on bogus services
Thu Oct 04 2012, 09:58
Cyber crime

UNITED STATES TRADE WATCHDOG, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has kicked off a crackdown against scareware scammers that try to con internet users into buying mostly useless security software that they don't need.

This week the FTC fined such a scammer over $160m for their role in such a scheme, and that is apparently just the start of it.

"The FTC has been aggressive - and successful - in its pursuit of tech support scams," said FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz. "And the tech support scam artists we are talking about today have taken scareware to a whole other level of virtual mayhem."

According to the FTC the scammers are mostly based in India and target consumers in the US, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and the UK. They operate telemarketing boiler rooms that call people in their homes with their scams.

They work by pretending to be from a recognised technology company and warn the user that their computer is infected in some way. We've had such a call, and in that case the person on the phone claimed to be from Microsoft.

According to the FTC, Microsoft is just one company name exploited by the scammers, and others include Norton, McAfee and Dell. Once they have the home user on the line they pretend that their computer is infected and offer to remove the infection for a fee.

In fact what they actually do is take control of the user's PC and install any software that they want on it while charging the user anywhere between $50 and $450.

The FTC is targeting 14 corporate defendants and 17 individual defendants in six legal filings, it said. µ


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