According to the FTC, tech support scams are a problem. Yup. As if you didn’t have enough reasons to hate tech support now they are going to get you proactively and not even wait for a call.
Seriously, what rock do you live under when you decide to devote your life to scamming people, most of whom are really quite naive and innocent, making them ideal marks.
According to the FTC’s OnGuardOnline website (which could use some serious help in terms of design and exposure), scammers are upgrading from malware and email to phone calls. They give no f***s:
Scammers have been peddling bogus security software for years. They set up fake websites, offer free “security” scans, and send alarming messages to try to convince you that your computer is infected. Then, they try to sell you software to fix the problem. At best, the software is worthless or available elsewhere for free. At worst, it could be malware — software designed to give criminals access to your computer and your personal information.
The latest version of the scam begins with a phone call. Scammers can get your name and other basic information from public directories. They might even guess what computer software you’re using.
Once they have you on the phone, they often try to gain your trust by pretending to be associated with well-known companies or confusing you with a barrage of technical terms. They may ask you to go to your computer and perform a series of complex tasks. Sometimes, they target legitimate computer files and claim that they are viruses. Their tactics are designed to scare you into believing they can help fix your “problem.”
Once they’ve gained your trust, they may:
- ask you to give them remote access to your computer and then make changes to your settings that could leave your computer vulnerable
- try to enroll you in a worthless computer maintenance or warranty program
- ask for credit card information so they can bill you for phony services — or services you could get elsewhere for free
- trick you into installing malware that could steal sensitive data, like user names and passwords
- direct you to websites and ask you to enter your credit card number and other personal information
The suggestion is to give them jack, nada, zilch, nothing! And file a damn complaint with the FTC.
Consumer Affairs highlights one instance where a complaint lodged with the FTC resulted in fines of $3,000 and $984,721 for the scummy scammers. Yup, that’s how much they had managed to swindle out of people.
Mikael Marczak, doing business as Virtual PC Solutions, and Sanjay Agarwalla were accused of posing as major computer security and manufacturing companies to deceive consumers that their computers had the problems mentioned above.
Complaints filed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) contend the two were not actually affiliated with major computer security or manufacturing companies and they had not detected viruses, spyware or other security or performance issues on the consumers’ computers.
As part of the scheme, the defendants charged consumers hundreds of dollars to remotely access and “fix” their computers.
The kicker is that the defendants apparently couldn’t pay the fine, although they were going to have their assets seized. Aaargh!