Woman fined $163 million for scareware

After a four-year slog, the Federal Trade Commission has succeeded in extracting $1.63 million from a ‘scareware’ marketer, finally closing its first such case.

Kristy Ross tricked consumers into thinking their computers were infected with malicious software, and then sold them a program to ‘fix’ the non-existent problem. The FTC claims their ill-gotten gains amounted to more than $100 million in total.

The case dates back to 2008, when the FTC charged Ross and six other defendants with conning more than a million consumers into buying their ‘anti-malware’ software.

They used what the FTC calls ‘elaborate and technologically sophisticated’ internet advertisements placed with advertising networks and many popular commercial websites.

These ads displayed to consumers a fake system scan that invariably detected a host of malicious files and programs on consumers’ computers- and then urged consumers to buy the defendants’ software for up to $60.

Ross is the last of the defendants to reach a settlement. Last year, Marc D’Souza and his father, Maurice D’Souza, were ordered to hand over $8.2 million. Two other defendants settled the charges against them, and the FTC obtained default judgments against the final three.

Ross is now permanently banned from selling computer software or any other software that interferes with consumers’ computer use, and from any form of deceptive marketing.