After allegedly cheating consumers out of $2.5 million in bogus technical support services, the operators of a New York-based tech support scam have reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.
Pairsys, Inc. conned consumers into paying $149 to $600 for tech support services they didn’t need and computer software that was otherwise free, according to the FTC’s original complaint. The company cold-called computer users, pretending to be a representative of Microsoft or Facebook, or lured consumers with deceptive online advertisements.
“The defendants behind Pairsys targeted seniors and other vulnerable populations, preying on their lack of computer knowledge to sell ‘security’ software and programs that had no value at all,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
As part of the settlement, Pairsys and its owners, Tiya Bhattachara and Uttam Saha, have been ordered to turn over two real estate properties and money held in multiple bank accounts and give up the leases on two vehicles. They are also permanently barred from selling tech support services and telemarketing.
The FTC has been cracking down on tech support scams in recent years, trying to prevent fraudsters from ripping off consumers.
They set up fake websites, offer free “security” scans, and send alarming messages to try to convince you that your computer is infected. Then, they try to sell you software to fix the problem. At best, the software is worthless or available elsewhere for free. At worst, it could be malware — software designed to give criminals access to your computer and your personal information.
Here are a few ways you can protect yourself from a tech support scam:
- Don’t give remote access to your computer to someone “who calls you out of the blue,” the FTC warns.
- Don’t trust the name that pops up on your caller ID. Scammers can make up caller ID names to try to trick you.
- If you need tech support, check your software packaging or receipt for contact information. Scammers often place online ads with bogus contact information in an effort to get consumers to call them instead of a legitimate tech support company.
- Do not provide your credit card or bank information to a tech support company that calls you.
- Protect your password. Don’t give up your password to anyone on the phone.
If you think you’ve been a victim of a tech support scam, click here to file a complaint with the FTC.
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