The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has had a big week, prevailing against purveyors of fake antivirus software and fake tech support.
First, the FTC scored a win in a court case against a company it had accused of selling fake virus removal tools. Ars Technica’s Cyrus Farivar reported, “A federal court in Maryland has imposed a $163 million opinion and judgment against defendants from Innovative Marketing in a massive scareware operation. The company sold the scareware under the names WinFixer, WinAntiVirus, and WinAntiVirusPro, among other monikers. Kristy Ross and two of the company’s founders—Sam Jain and Daniel Sundin—were determined to be jointly liable for that amount.”
TechHive’s Daniel Ionescu explained, “The case dates to 2008, when an elaborate scam used online ads to display a fake system-scan alert that claimed to find malware on users’ computers. The victims were then urged to buy software to fix the problem, costing between $40 and $60 each time, in order to clean up their PCs.” He added, “The scareware con ran between 2000 and 2008, and the FTC estimated that Innovative Marketing, the company that promoted the fake software, took in more than $60 million in revenue over the years. The FTC investigation was prompted by some 3,000 complaints received over the scam.”
Separately, the FTC is taking on other scammers who allegedly tricked consumers into paying for tech support services. According to eWeek’s Jeffrey Burt, “The FTC has filed charges against six companies involved in tech support scams; they allegedly ran ‘scareware’ schemes on tens of thousands of victims, and a U.S. District Court judge—at the agency’s request—ordered a stop to the scams and froze the assets of the companies involved in the scams.” He added, “In those tech support cons, the scammers would point victims to a utility area of their computer, telling them that that indicated the presence of malware in the systems. They then would offer to rid the systems of the viruses for fees of $49 to $450. Once the consumers agreed, they were directed to a Website to enter a code or download software that enabled the scammers to remotely access the systems, according to the FTC.”
Computerworld quoted FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz, who said, “The tech support scam artists we are talking about today have taken scareware to a whole other level of virtual mayhem.”