Shutting down scammers and their pop-up ads

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Ever wonder how you spot a tech support scam? Ads that pop up on your computer with messages like ‘SECURITY ALERT’ or ‘Urgent Notice: your data may be at risk’ – those are signs of a scam. The FTC has been after tech support scammers for many years. Now, the FTC and Florida Attorney General have asked a federal court to shut down six companies and hold their owners responsible for running a Florida-based tech support operation that took millions from US consumers.

The companies, including Big Dog Solutions LLC, PC Help Desk US LLC and BlackOptek CE, Inc. allegedly lured people to websites that made pop-up ‘security alerts’ appear on computer screens. When users called the number in the ‘alert,’ the FTC says they reached call center reps who told a series of lies.

First, the reps claimed they were authorized by well-known technology companies to service their product — they weren’t. They said they detected security or performance issues, like spyware, viruses, malware or presence of hackers on users’ computers — they hadn’t. They said the performance or security problems needed immediate attention — they didn’t. The FTC says the companies took $200 - $400 from each user for ‘repairs,’ several hundred dollars more for new antivirus software, and pushed users to sign up for ongoing service that cost up to $19.99 a month.

Need real tech support? Online searches may not be the best way to find technical support or get a company’s contact information. Scammers often place misleading ads online, and pay to have their website and phone numbers appear at the top of search results. Instead, look for a company’s contact information on a software package or your receipt.

To check out a company, put the company’s name and the word ‘review,’ ‘complaint,’ or ‘scam’ in your search engine. And if you think you responded to a scam, please report it to the FTC.

Blog Topics: 
Online Security

Comments

Received a call from 518-227-4765 claiming to be IRS saying I was under investigation. Didn't give any info, but would like to have that person investigated and prosecuted.

You can report the call to the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint.

Here's the number: 202 370-6713 a DC #.

I had several family members tell me they received the same call

I got one from the fib says to send 59.00 or go to jail for two years

yes too many imposters

You cannot possibly get all of these scams. They are also using and somehow getting peoples phone numbers and calling saying there is a threat and we have detected it. They tell you to go to your computer right away. There are fake numbers used to call consumers also. How are people getting away with these things and are not being caught. They are mostly foreign people.

I would like our federal government shut all of these rotten people down for good.
They use tactics that are evil and then try to con you out of your money in any way that they all can.

yes please shut them down for good

All my comment disappeared for 3rd time on this site!!

i too received such a call from someone claiming to work for a security firm, and that my computer has alerted them to unsafe browsing or activity. i told the person thats odd, considering my pc has been offline for over a week. i learned early on, that when they ask you to relinquish control of the pc to them, its a scam. it is also of concern to me that efforts to get me to pay for "support" by a contractor for microsoft., i almost always receive such solicitation after i had contacted mcafee or microsoft about an issue.. what is up with that? if i get a popup ad, its uusually after i had done searches on google. i've called the toll free number, accused them of placing the virus on my pc, etc. they then block my phone nummber. i'm sick of it. the people answering the "tech guru" calls almost always have an accdent similar to some hindu persons i've known.i'm glad they are being caught. i'm in new york now, hoprfully the efforts by ag are the same as in florida. these people put the virus on your computer, then try and take your money, after they have compromised your pc through remote control you have given them.

Scammers are notorious for using "spoofed" phone numbers. They just put in any number they want, and most of the time it is a fake number. They are impossible to track. They appear to come from the US, but they originate in Europe, Africa, Middle East, etc.

Kinda simple. Go to a real, licensed, support person or group. NEVER respond to an online ad., or phone solicitation If people did this it would cutout most Ads from ALL because people aren't buying that way. We'd all be happier, No?

It happened to me a few years ago. I fell for it. The company was Omnitech. I paid about a few hundred $$$'s for them to fix my machine. Later I got a call from Microsoft saying that I didn't have to pay that much. I still got ripped off. I was stupid and didn't know about all the scams out there at that time. I consider myself very educated on scams now. I'm not saying that this won't happen again to me. It will be very hard for someone to convince me though. Again thanks for keeping people informed on all the subjects that you cover. It's appreciated. I got a call that said on my SSI yesterday. I knew it wasn't SSI calling me. I answered which I usually don't. I wanted to see who was calling all the time. It was one of those people from the ComEd that ComEd has to let people have the chance to sign up with. I told her that I knew who the company was and I wanted them to take me off the list. I also told her that I could report her to the FTC for fraudulently misrepresenting who was calling by putting SSI on my phone. She was very quiet after that and I hung up. If they call again I will report them.

I was getting "SILENT" phonecalls on my landline phone, just in the past couple of wks. I did pick up the calls, and kept recognizing the phone number. Whomever it was, they didn't utter a word. So, I think that I won't be getting anymore calls from them, is the fact that I SCREAMED IN THE PHONE RECEIVER! Since then, no more calls from that number! lol-YAY!

I hit the # key fast like you have heard before.

Despite several reminders no bank balance indicated by employers how to continue with for a long span. Consumer court to look into and start bank operat ion. Thks

Register your phone number with the do not call site

The Do Not Call Registry doesn't protect you if they're spoofing numbers. I know. It happened to me. My phone rang and a company I had previously done business with popped up on my Caller ID. I was lucky to realize what was happening before much damage was done. I got my money back. The one that targeted me did what the FTC said above...tell me I had viruses and talked me into taking over my computer. Which is the reason I has this company's number in my contacts. The best thing to do is DON'T GIVE OUT ANY PERSONAL INFO over the phone. Ask them for a phone# to verify the company, if they will. Then look online for the company and call them. Then report to FTC. These monsters are targeting older people, seniors, and getting away with millions of our hard earned money. Be a part of the solution.

Earlier today I got a phone call which showed "anonymous". Normally I don't answer anonymous calls but a long-time friend calls a couple of times a year and he restricts his number to all he calls. So I thought it was him and I answered. It was a man who said he was from Medicare.He wanted to talk to me specifically. I said that I was who he was calling for. He then told me my medicare number and although I was shocked I said nothing. I asked him what he wanted and he said that I had recently had back procedures and that now Medicare offers free back braces if I felt that one would help me, etc. etc. I made no reference to that fact (my back) and asked him again who he was. He again said Medicare. I told him he wasn't with Medicare and he said he was an "associate" of Medicare. You could hear a lot of voices behind him, like a call center, and he had an East Indian accent. I hung up on him but was very upset. If he had my medicare number he most likely had everything else. I reported him to the FTC and they noted the call and advised me to contact the credit bureaus. I had frozen my accounts a few years ago. I called the doctor's office who performed the procedures but they closed at noon so I will have to wait until Monday to see if they had a security breach. Medicare just called me back. They checked my account and there was nothing that looked suspicious. They advised me that Medicare would not call for something like that and they made suggestions as to which agencies I should contact. There had to have been a breach of security at the doctor's office or hospital for him to have had that information.
Be very careful if someone from "Medicare" calls you.

It took me forever to remove "Mac Keeper." I thought I was updating adobe acrobat but I wasn't and before I could stop the install Mac keeper and several other apps automatically installed on my computer.

Ignorance of what is happening, Don't be nice, hang up on these leaches, thugs, and possible terrorists, i've gotten calls fbi, irs, microsoft, etc, all with a far east accent, that should tell you enough, HANG UP, AND LEAVE A FEW EXPLETIVES FOR DESERT

AFEW OF THOSE LOVELY WORDS WOULD BE GREAT IF MORE USED THIS METHOD. ANYTHING ULTRA NASTY AND INSULTIVE. THIS IS A MILD TREATMENT STILL. TOO BAD SCIENTIST HAVE NOT INVENTED something you couldSpray through the phone and it traces the connection. It is far fetched, but how bad being bothered daily, holidays, special times, quiet times, dinner, busy, sleep, u name it week ends.They are like evil harassers,thieves in your business and homes. Why is it so hard for people bothered by them not to have control?
1.alerts put out through the phone carriers, and media to copy every phone call of this nature on a special pad. I so many did this, why can't a special force be hired to track these numbers and most likely they are by THE same setup
1.Find out from whence comes these many numbers and companies that sell them by researching so many. I am almost certain it would lead to hidden thieves. Even ask for idle folk to help and find out certain investigating answers. Then so something about them. Arrest,charges, if foreign:set up blocks for callers, especially that you do not know and there is no known ID visible.Let important callers you give your no to that you will not answer unless you distinctly know them from caller ID.

A. IF ALL OR MOST THAT SEE AND TRY FOLLOWING THRU WITH THESE SUGGESTIONS, I BET THERE WILL BE SO MANY THAT ARE NON OPERATIVE, BECAUSE THEY CANNOT GET THROUGH OR LURE ONE. fAMILIES AND WORKERS OF SENIORS AND DISABLED CAN MAKE SURE THEIR CLIENTS ARE PROTECTED THIS WAY TOO.
b WE ALL SHOULD BRAINSTORM, REALLY COME UP WITH STARTER IDEAS. MAKE YOURSELVES PROUD.

cCOMPUTER GEEKS AND SMART ONES CAN DO THIS AND GET TO PHONE COMPANIES WITH THE CONTROLLING OF PHONE CALLS AND NUMBERS IN SOME WAYS. WITH THE INTELLIGENCE OF THE US AND OTHERS, THERE HAS GOT TO BE A WAY TO ALMOST DESTROY THESE STRESS ABUSERS TO GO OUT OF BUSINESS OR/AND KNOW WE GOT OUR OWN BACKS. STOP LETTING THEM CCONTROL OUR PHONES AND HOMES. AT LEAST IT WILL FOR NOW SLOW THEM DOWN A LOT.

I have been hounded by fly by night Scammers asking for someone named "Stevee".They make claims that offers signature loans, from Varying Companies, changing their Company Name, each Call. Then I tell them that they have the wrong number and they hang up! I looked into their Numbers, and they are landlines, allowed to make Outgoing Calls Only. I blame the Phone Companies, the FBI, and the FTC, for NOT STOPPING THIS FRAUD! NOW, they are applying for Credit using your email addresses, and the loan Companies will not disclose what address, nor what phone numbers they are using!

I also was taken with the computer scam a few years back.Lost several hundred dollars. I was also being scammed at the same time by a dating scammer. I did not know that at the time. I now feel they were linked. Any way, they "cleaned" my computer, and put anti spy ware on it. Turns out all they added were free trials. All were registered with fake emails ect. when the trials were up, i found out and could do nothing to get off of my computer. Lucky for me my computer crashed big time. The company had to rebuild it. Since removal I get phone calls every day from the same people. Same story as earlier. Support from Dell saying I have a virus. Go to your computer now. I also get the hangup calls at least 3 times a day.

I appreciate the FTC!

These companies pray on people who lack computer sophistication like myself. All the phone calls I get , if they do not hang up and you discover the phone # on your ID are spoofed, or if someone answers the person claim they are from Microsoft, and the emails or pop up are claiming they are from Norton, or Microsoft.This has gone on for years despite notifying the companies and filing complaints with FTC, FCC. Even if you do not fall for the scams, the price you pay in stress and time wasted is very high. .

Receive a myriad of calls on all my phones despite for years being on the toothless no call list. Most of these scammers use a spoofed phone number. The FCC and the FTC should work together on tracing and shutting Down scammers who use spoofed phone numbers etc. clearly the majority of scammers do not pay attention to the no call list

I had the same happen to me a few yrs back, and paid out money that I thought was a good virus apt, and it did not mention about the ongoing billing that was billed directly to your credit card, this too was a scam, I sure did learn my lesson, regarding these pop ups, stating you were infected with a virus.

Is pchelpdesk the same company mentioned in the article?

The defendants in the case are BigDog Solutions LLC (doing business as Help Desk National and Help Desk Global); PC Help Desk US LLC (doing business as Help Desk National and Help Desk Global); Inbound Call Specialist LLC; BlackOpteck CE Inc.; 9138242 Canada Corporation; Digital Growth Properties, LLC; Christopher J. Costanza (doing business as CJM Consulting, LLC); Suzanne W. Harris; Muzaffar Abbas; Gary Oberman; Donald Dolphin and Justin Powers.

For more information, please see the related press release, FTC and Florida Charge Tech Support Operation with Tricking Consumers Into Paying Millions for Bogus Services.

FOLLOWING ARE ACTUALLY 2 "TIPS" ABOUT FRAUD. IF ANY SIGNIFICANT $$ WOULD EVER BE "RECOVERED," PLEASE JUST USE IT TO DO MORE INVESTIGATIONS I recently watched come L.E.shows, one was just about Hackers & related ID Theft & I was amazed. These were on very late, not in prime time. HP/SMART FRIEND--Apparent Intentional Fraud (HP SEEMS to not be the same company I used to work with--NOT for--very sad) We added on continued warranties for both our 2010 HP dsktop & HP printer which had been sold to my husband as an "all-in-one pkg" back in 2010. HP has, to date, reniged on these extended warranties & instead HP referred my husband to their subsiduary "SmartFriend"--all HP techs over the yrs have told us they needed to get onto our computer. Some helped, some didn't; all stayed on phone way too long; Dec 2015 India guy who said he was out of Toronto kept me on phone 5+ hours, no joke, which is why I told hubby that He was doing this call which was forwarded from HP over to "Herbert" @SmartFriend in the Phillipines (he claimed, but billing dept claimed there is No division there). Herbert appears to have made our computer worse, imbedded a hidden msg threatening to disable the comp if we tried to quit their contract, & stole or else somehow corrupted personal docs, even my dad's recent obituary, maybe? because Dad was Lt.Col. in USAF to be honored w/burial @ANC? Then this tech had the audacity to add a msg imbedded in the computer about what all needed to be done in case of "identity theft"! HP confirmed over phone to husband "SmartFriend" is actually affiliated with HP & not subcontractor. Our checking acct statement does verify HP billing...I tried to report to HP person in tech sales but they had never even heard of SmartFriend. Over 600 supposedly "resolved" complaints on BBB site & BBB continues to show SmartFriend with an A+ rating. There are some neg reviews on the general web but that happens with many companies about this & that.We described what happened to our bank mgr who agreed we needed to change our bank accounts, destroy our related checks & cards, and contact the credit bureaus. Then I stupidly gave my new cc# before realizing to a billing lady who claimed to be from Smart Friend, but she also told me they don't even have a branch in the Phillipines.

FOLLOWING IS NEXT "TIP" THIS ONE IS ABOUT (what I consider) FRAUD @ EQUIFAX!! These two "tips" both refer to identity theft or fraud is why they are in the same comment/letter. I then shared with our bank mgr that a CSR@ the same bank branch he used to be at back in 2012 had either on purpose or through a very odd clerical error actually changed my name--she is Hispanic so I'm trying to see it as a "mistake" since my surname is hyphenated, and I hope it was not deliberate fraud; she is no longer with that branch; don't know if she's still in banking or similar industry. She totally turned my name around. Experian told me who had done the different name variation which has since, for 4 years, caused multiple harassments of co's offering me open credits for this card or that loan which was not logical since the wrong name is still under MY credit report which is still not @ credit number it should be! Now to me, Equifax has completely and totally committed Intentional Fraud, that is, they know better, because they decided they have the authority to actually change my name when I have had the name I currently use since my marriage on 04 May 1991. I have never ever in my life used the name that young woman made up and sent in! How can Equifax legally just change my name like that? This call center was out of the Phillipines. I then looked on the web and saw that these two credit bureau's are worldwide, not confined to the states. TransUnion was totally unreachable by telephone; that is, I was not able to get past their automated answering software...and I was more than annoyed...are we so stupid and naive that we don't realize (as a country) that these businesses are one of first places we should investigate for identify theft fraud, especially Equifax who took the self-appointed liberty to just arbitrarily change my name. Equifax claimed someone had issued credit in that name which was NOT AT ALL true! The actual just recently self-closed $300 credit card w/statements together w/our joint accounts prove my correct name. I would be happy & not scared to help w/info, extra research as I would be physically & mentally able, IF these are issues even important enough to the rampant crime of ID theft. Have couple of other ID related tips, one from computer, one not, & even though you probably Already know about them, I'm willing to try to help research to glean raw data for our country, our law abiding L.E., and our honest citizens. Even though we seem to be fighting a lost battle, I will continue, just as you do.

You have a right to get your credit reports for free from the three national credit reporting bureaus once every 12 months. If you review your reports regularly, you can spot problems. To order your reports, visit annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228.

You can contact the Equifax and dispute the errors on your credit reports. This FTC article explains how to dispute errors.

Some scuzz tried to talk my mother in law into buying their "software". She initially fell for it, then realized what had happened. Luckily she cancelled her credit card before any fraudulent charges were made. There has to be a way for average citizens to irritate these scumbags as much as they irritate us.

Tired of these horrible attack ads? Don't wait for the FTC to save you, take action!

Google "find a website's IP". Many of the top results are whois searches that are free of charge. Copy the URL(address) of the offending ad, then put it in the search bar of one of these websites.

Once the results come up, you should have the IP address of the offending website, as well as the "ABUSE" email contact info for the company hosting the website, or the cloud service that will forward the info you provide to the host. Put "You are hosting an attack ad website" in the subject, and give the ads URL and IP address in the body. Most quality hosts will respond by suspending the account and informing you of such within 24 hours. The host will keep the money for that month's service, so this costs the scammers money.

The scammers attack ad goes down, they lose money, and it takes you less than 3 minutes to do. TAKE THE CROOKS DOWN!

That nasty attack ad won't close no matter what you do? Go into your options and look for your cookies. Under FireFox it would be Options, Privacy, remove individual cookies. Then do a quick search for a small bit of the attack ads URL. Delete any and all cookies related to the ad. Also, make SURE your browser is set to come up on your home page only. Then CTRL+ALT+DEL and open your Task Manager. Go to processes, and shut your browser down. You should be back to normal now.

I receive hundreds of these scam calls and online scam messages a year and the only way to get rid of these scammers is by just continuously blocking calls from numbers you don't know, using unknown caller unmasking software to reveal the names and numbers and locations of scammers and just fool around with these scammers brains to shut down their schemes that they play. VPN apps on the computer plus other security and hacking software these days makes it very easy to disable any online scammers you may encounter.

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