A federal regulator said it has helped shut down two telemarketing operations that deceived tens of thousands of customers.
Since 2012, tens of thousands of Americans have been bilked of $120 million by two telemarketing firms that tricked people into thinking their computers had a problem and then sold them phony software and tech support, the Federal Trade Commission said.
Some customers were charged as much as $500, the FTC said.
The agency worked with the state of Florida to persuade a federal judge this week to temporarily shut down and freeze the assets of the companies.
According to The Washington Post, offering bogus technical support is a popular way for scammers to prey on computer users, especially older people. The Post wrote:
In a standard scam, criminals will call and claim to have found a virus on a person’s computer and “prove” it to the call recipients by instructing them to navigate to harmless but little-used menus that they claim are evidence of a virus. From there, scammers then [persuade] users to pay them to remove the “virus.”
The two massive telemarketing operations charged $29 to $49 to “fix” the problem, the Post said.
Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection, said in a statement:
These operations prey on consumers’ lack of technical knowledge with deceptive pitches and high-pressure tactics to sell useless software and services to the tune of millions of dollars. There’s no excuse for it, and we are pleased the court has taken steps to temporarily shut down these scams while our lawsuit proceeds.
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