FTC Combats Tech Support Scams

The Federal Trade Commission cracked down on a massive international scam that tricked tens of thousands of computer users into believing their computers were riddled with malware and then paying the scammers hundreds of dollars to “fix” the problem.    

According to complaints filed by the FTC, the scammers called computer users and claimed to be affiliated with legitimate companies, including Dell, Microsoft, McAfee and Norton, and played on people’s fear of computer infections and hackers.

After getting people on the phone, the callers allegedly claimed they had detected malware that posed an imminent threat. To demonstrate the need for immediate help, the scammers directed people to a utility area of their computer and falsely claimed that it demonstrated that the computer was infected. Here’s a screenshot of what computer users saw:

Sample Windws Event Viewer

In reality, these warning messages appear on most computers and are a normal part of the computer’s operating system. They don’t mean that the computer is infected. But that didn’t stop scammers from claiming otherwise. Here’s an actual conversation between one of the scammers and an undercover FTC investigator:

Callers then directed people to a website that would allow the scammers to access the computer remotely. The scammers offered to rid the computer of malware for fees ranging from $130 to $330. The charges were for completely unnecessary repairs and warranty programs, and for software programs that are available for free.

At the request of the FTC, a U.S. District Court Judge has ordered a halt to the alleged scams pending trial, and has frozen the U.S. assets of six operations named in FTC complaints. 

Today, the FTC also released new tips for computer users to help them spot and stop tech support scams and a new video to help people protect their computers from malware:

The FTC acknowledges and appreciates the support it received from the Australian Communications Authority (ACMA), the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), and the United Kingdom’s Serious Organised Crime Agency, each of which provided invaluable assistance to the FTC. The CRTC and ACMA also brought administrative actions for violations of their Do Not Call laws.

Visit OnGuardOnline.gov to learn more about what you can do to avoid these scams and protect your computer from malware.

Comments

Dear Sirs, We received a call from a stange phone # 730182 Thursday, 12/13. An Indian gentleman, very difficult to understand, asked to speak to my husband. I told him he wasn't here, could I help him. He said they had identified continual reports of problems with my husbands computer and they needed to help us fix it. I was VERY suspicious and when I told him that my husband doesn't have a computer he could just say hmmmm. I told him that my computer was covered by HP security and he hung up!!! Scary stuff. Thought you may want to know.

Good Luck with the jerks,

Jane Rhoads

Obviously the "crackdown" did not work because I received FOUR (4) harassing calls in a row from these same scam artists this morning, 1/30/13.
these scammers need to be prosecuted.
I will Complain about (530)619-3038 until i get action.

Hi, the FTC will continue to investigate and bring action against scammers like this. You can file a formal complaint at www.ftc.gov/complaint. Many of these scammers are overseas, so it can be difficult to prosecute them. The FTC provides tips and advice for people so that the scammers don't get what they're after -- your money and personal information.

Just received a call with caller ID 730182. Over the last few months I have gotten others that were similar. I never answer the phone with these bonus numbers.

Just received a call (12/18, 9:45 am PST) very similar to the one lasvegasjane reported, purporting to be from phone number 530-619-3038. When I repeatedly asked for identifying information about the machine in question (ethernet hardware address, etc.), they first tried to avoid the question, then hung up. I tried returning the call (the number was on my caller ID), but got a message saying the number would not accept my call, at the customer's request (or something like that -- it was a new one on me).

Thanks for your comment, Wayfinder. These scammers often spoof caller ID numbers, so the number that appears on your caller ID is not the number the person is calling from.

soo many smammers D:

I received a call tonight from some foreign speaking guys claiming to be from Microsoft Windows. They talked of me losing my computer all together. Then they wanted me to hit the windows icon on keyboard then hit r. Then they wanted me to type in: eventvwr. I could not understand his language and asked to speak to an America but I got another guy with same accent but speech was easier to understand. I told him, no, I don't trust you. I hung up on him but I did not like the whole mess.

I experienced the same thing... They asked me to press windows button and press r at the same time.
after a while when I said I was not trusting him (He asked me to pay for a software through western union.. I told him I wouldn`t do that. He tried to convince me to complete the process by restarting my computer and see what happened. My computer was now closed and I couldnt access my computer. I made hime believe I would do as he said and he told me the password. In stead of logging in to windows I clicked "recover windows". I logged in to my other computer and found this site (google searched "microsoft scam" I read every word from top and he still told me that I should do as he said. He would close every computer of mine if I didnt. I told him he was a criminal and I wanted to see him in jail. He told me to hang up.... which I did. My computer is restored and I have erased all the softwares he tried to install. Ran a complete virus scan and reported to my internet provider. It seems everything is safe as long as I never put in credit card information or passwords or usernames.

bestove, I'm so glad you found our article and hung up on this scammer. Thanks so much for writing to let us know.

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