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David N. Kirkman
Task Force Alert
Chair
Asst Attorney General
Consumer Protection
NC Department of
Justice
P.O. Box 629
Raleigh, NC 27602
919-716-6000

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TO NC SENIOR CONSUMER FRAUD TASK FORCE MEMBERS

******Alert #299******

Eleven months ago, we issued an alert about callers from “computer tech support” who claimed that there were problems with the call recipients’ home computers. The callers, who sounded as if they were from overseas, sometimes claimed they were with Microsoft, Dell or other major companies. Call recipients were directed to take certain actions with their computers that would provide the callers with full access to their computer programs and security systems. The Federal Government on Wednesday announced that it and agencies overseas had brought enforcement actions against over a dozen companies and individuals who allegedly ran these scams. A portion of the federal announcement concerning these cases reads as follows:

For Release: 10/03/2012

FTC Halts Massive Tech Support Scams

Tens of Thousands of Consumers Allegedly Tricked Into Paying for Removal of Bogus Viruses and Non-Existent Spyware, and Allowing Scammers to Remotely Access their Computers

At the request of the FTC, a U.S. District Court Judge has ordered a halt to six alleged tech support scams pending further hearings, and has frozen their assets.

“The FTC has been aggressive – and successful – in its pursuit of tech support scams,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “And the tech support scam artists we are talking about today have taken scareware to a whole other level of virtual mayhem.”

The FTC charged that the operations – mostly based in India – target English-speaking consumers in the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and the U.K. According to the FTC, five of the six used telemarketing boiler rooms to call consumers. The sixth lured consumers by placing ads with Google which appeared when consumers searched for their computer company’s tech support telephone number.

According to the FTC, after getting the consumers on the phone, the telemarketers allegedly claimed they were affiliated with legitimate companies, including Dell, Microsoft, McAfee, and Norton, and told consumers they had detected malware that posed an imminent threat to their computers. To demonstrate the need for immediate help, the scammers directed consumers to a utility area of their computer and falsely claimed that it demonstrated that the computer was infected. The scammers then offered to rid the computer of malware for fees ranging from $49 to $450. When consumers agreed to pay the fee for fixing the “problems,” the telemarketers directed them to a website to enter a code or download a software program that allowed the scammers remote access to the consumers’ computers. Once the telemarketers took control of the consumers’ computers, they “removed” the non-existent malware and downloaded otherwise free programs.

FTC papers filed with the court alleged that the scammers hoped to avoid detection by consumers and law enforcers by using virtual offices that were actually just mail-forwarding facilities, and by using 80 different domain names and 130 different phone numbers.

The FTC charged the defendants with violating the FTC Act, which bars unfair and deceptive commercial practices, as well as the Telemarketing Sales Rule and with illegally calling numbers on the Do Not Call Registry. It asked the court to permanently halt the scams and order restitution for consumers.

The FTC acknowledges and appreciates the support it received from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), and the United Kingdom’s Serious Organised Crime Agency, each of which provided invaluable assistance to the FTC. The CRTC and ACMA also brought administrative actions for violations of their Do Not Call laws. The FTC also acknowledges investigative assistance it received from Microsoft, as well as from other computer companies.

(Full text of the announcement is found athttp://www.ftc.gov/opa/2012/10/pecon.shtm )

 

******End of Alert******

Date: October 5, 2012

David N. Kirkman
Task Force Alerts Chair
Assistant Attorney General
Consumer Protection Division
Office of Attorney General Roy Cooper
114 West Edenton Street
9001 Mail Processing Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-9001
el. 919-716-6000
Fax 919-716-6050

 

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NC Senior Consumer
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