Have you ever received a security alert on your computer warning you that your computer may be infected with a virus? That may have been a scam. The Federal Trade Commission closed in on one of these scammer operations and the Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi filed a complaint against six owners and their companies who were accused of bilking international tech support consumers out of millions of dollars. On 7/8/2016 the Federal Court entered an Order that temporarily shut down that operation, froze the defendants’ assets and placed control of those assets with a court-appointed receiver.
Bilking: to cheat or trick (a person or organization) especially by taking money.
The scam went like this:
A computer user gets a fraudulent advertisement designed to resemble security alerts from Microsoft or Apple. These ads lead consumers to believe their computers may be infected with malware and urged them to call a toll-free number to safeguard both their computer and sensitive personal information stored on it.
When consumers called the numbers in these ads they were routed to the defendants’ call center in Boynton Beach, Florida, where telemarketers claim they are certified by Apple or Microsoft to fix their computers.
The they then run a series of free diagnostics tests that inevitably discovered the existence of grave problems. The operator then pressures consumers to let them clear the viruses at a cost of $200 to $300.
They also frequently pressure consumers to replace their existing antivirus software that they claimed was outdated and ineffective at a fraction of the cost for only $200 to $500. In many instances, the software the defendants sold to consumers with Apple computers is available as a free download.
If you feel you are the victim of a similar scam, do not call the numbers like the ones in the pop-up advertisements below. Do not give them your personal information over the phone or online. If you feel you are being scammed, report them to Federal Trade Commission. If you really do have a virus, seek out services of local legitimate computer expert.
The defendants were based in Florida, Iowa, Nevada and Canada:
Christopher J. Costanza, doing business as CJM Consulting
LLC; Muzaffar Abbas
Suzanne W. Harris
Big Dog 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
To view the court order, click here.
To view the complaint filed, click here.
Anyone who suspects unfair or deceptive business practices can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office online at www.MyFloridaLegal.com or in-state via phone at 1-866-NO-SCAM.
For consumer education materials about tech support scams, click here.