US-based tech support scams conned victims out of US$120m

20 Nov 2014

America’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has shut down two telemarketing scams that conned tens of thousands of customers out of more than US$120m.

According to the FTC, the fraud duped computer users who installed free trial software claiming to enhance the security or performance of their machine into paying for an upgraded edition by identifying a variety of phony errors.

To fix the issues, people were told to purchase a ‘full’ version of the software, which would cost between US$29 and US$49.

In addition, when consumers called the company for the software’s activation number, they were transferred to telemarketers who would try to sell additional computer repair services and software using what the FTC described as “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,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

“There’s no excuse for it, and we are pleased the court has taken steps to temporarily shut down these scams while our lawsuit proceeds.”

The defendants’ assets have been temporarily frozen and their businesses are now under the control of a court-appointed receiver.

Internet fraud image via Shutterstock

Dean Van Nguyen was a contributor to Silicon Republic