Earlier this week a federal court in Florida issued a temporary restraining order shutting down a series of organizations in the business of peddling fake software and nonexistent tech support services, temporarily freezing the assets of those companies’ and placing them under the control of a court-appointed receiver.
According to a pair of FTC complaints dating from 2012 onward, the defendants allegedly used software designed to dupe consumers into believing their computers were broken before deploying “high-pressure deceptive sales pitches” for tech support services and products that they claimed would resolve the made-up issues.
“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,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “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.”
The criminal complaints call out many organizations that the FTC alleges are involved in two distinct and massive telemarketing schemes. Specifically, the FTC alleges that the defendants violated Section 5 of the FTC Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule and the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. These actions are part of a broader FTC campaign targeting fraudulent tech support schemes.
The scam relies on its victims downloading a piece of free trial software that claims to enhance computer performance or increase security. Once the software is installed, it runs a fake scan on the machine. The defendants’ scanner allegedly always detects a number of problems. Of course, the trial software then informs users that they will need to purchase the full version of the software in order to remedy the issues detected by the scanner.
When and if a victim buys the full version of the software, which costs between $29 and $49, the program advises that he or she activate their subscription by calling a toll-free number. This toll free number, the FTC says, is where the second half of the scam takes place, because the number actually leads to a telemarketing call center where employees try to sell computer repair services and computer software “using scare tactics to deceive consumers into paying for unneeded computer support services.”
It doesn’t end their either. In successful cases, the telemarketers convince callers to grant them remote access to their computers. Once they have remote desktop access, the telemarketers run through a scripted pitch, pulling up innocuous screens like the Windows Event Manager and convincing callers that something is seriously wrong. Once the hook is set, the telemarketers allegedly move to push bogus software, costing as much as $500, on callers.
The organizations and individuals identified in the first complaint are PC Cleaner Inc.; Netcom3 Global Inc.; Netcom3 Inc., also doing business as Netcom3 Software Inc.; and Cashier Myricks, Jr. The telemarketing defendants include Inbound Call Experts LLC; Advanced Tech Supportco. LLC; PC Vitalware LLC; Super PC Support LLC; Robert D. Deignan, Paul M. Herdsman, and Justin M. Wright.
The second complaint names Boost Software Inc. and Amit Mehta, and the telemarketing defendants include Vast Tech Support LLC, also doing business as OMG Tech Help, OMG Total Protection, OMG Back Up, downloadsoftware.com, and softwaresupport.com; OMG Tech Help LLC; Success Capital LLC; Jon Paul Holdings LLC; Elliot Loewenstern; Jon-Paul Vasta; and Mark Donohue.