Major scamware creator fined $163 million by U.S. authorities

By on October 4, 2012, 5:30 PM

Software scam artist Kristy Ross has been fined $163 million by U.S. authorities for running an unscrupulous "scareware" operation. The Federal Trade Commission had been following Ross since 2008 in hopes of closing in on her dealings and the judgment includes six others involved in her illicit scheme. 

Ross is believed to be the mind behind nefarious "utilities" like WinAntiVirus, Winfixer, FreeRepair, DriveCleaner and System Doctor. These applications would pose as legitimate utilities, but led unsuspecting users to falsely believe their PCs were suffering from critical system issues like virus infections. The programs would then offer to solve those imaginary problems for a one-time fee -- an amount typically between $40 and $60. The FTC described Ross' scamware approach as "elaborate" and "technologically sophisticated".

The FTC article, "Free Security Scan" Could Cost Time and Money, explains how these types of scams work.

The hefty $163 million fine is largely due to the massive proliferation of aforementioned scamware. The imposter utilities managed to snatch over one million paying customers -- yep, one million -- who believed buying Ross' software would help alleviate their purported PC problems. In addition to the fine, Ross has also been barred from selling certain types of computer software and is now prohibited from engaging in deceptive marketing.

In the past, criminal outfits busted for similar antics have been forced to return a portion of their ill-gotten gains. The FCC cites Marc D'Souza's family-run malware operation as an example: they were ordered to repay $8.2 million of their revenue to victims in 2011.




User Comments: 28

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1 person liked this | TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I've spent more time cleaning up friends and relatives hard drives of those "utilities" - more often than not having to a complete reformat and clean install of OS and all programs to get rid of that crap.

She also needs 163 million years in jail to go along with that fine.

2 people like this | psycros psycros said:

LOL, I love how the fed's first move is to help themselves to the ill-gotten gains, with no word on whether the criminals will have to pay back their victims.

Guest said:

This will sound HORRIBLE but its true but if I could do this I would and take off to a 3rd world country and retire. I am willing to bet any amount of money, 99% of you would do it too.

---agissi--- ---agissi---, TechSpot Paladin, said:

That spyware is the worst worst worst!

1 person liked this | Guest said:

What about life rotting in JAIL for her BS! and paying each one of us hundreds of $$$ for the mess

Lionvibez said:

This will sound HORRIBLE but its true but if I could do this I would and take off to a 3rd world country and retire. I am willing to bet any amount of money, 99% of you would do it too.

I wouldn't do that.

Third world countries are generally more corrupt than first world countries. You would last maybe a week before they chopped you up in to pieces once they found out how much you were worth :P

ramonsterns said:

This will sound HORRIBLE but its true but if I could do this I would and take off to a 3rd world country and retire. I am willing to bet any amount of money, 99% of you would do it too.

You've obviously haven't been to a third world country if you would move there with that much money.

Guest said:

Where does all that money Go? Back to the victims?

Guest said:

Fined $163 million?? that's not fair.. This guy should at least fined about $1 billion and return money to the victims about at least three times!

SCJake said:

"technologically Sophisticated"

"believed to be the mind behind..."

"her"

One of these things just doesn't belong here!

Flag on the play, Shenanigans on the suspect

1 person liked this | Guest said:

"You've obviously haven't been to a third world country if you would move there with that much money."

I couldn't agree more, Ramonsterns - the shops just aren't up to scratch...

Guest said:

There are multiple victims with this scam, the ones who paid money for a bogus product, the ones who realized it was bogus and paid someone to remove it and the IT folks who had to remove this as part of their jobs. It's a shame that so many people take advantage of others when they could put that energy toward helping others.

Camikazi said:

"technologically Sophisticated"

"believed to be the mind behind..."

"her"

One of these things just doesn't belong here!

Flag on the play, Shenanigans on the suspect

It is so wrong for me to laugh at this but I found it funny

Tygerstrike said:

Worse then anything it was a "small" scam. Meaning that I have seen similar scams and the "removal" cost hundreds. I mean most ppl wouldnt think twice about $40-$60 to fix thier PC. Thats the brilliance behind all this. It was innoculous. Its was such a tiny amount of cash that ppl believed it was a real company providing a service for them. I will give the Lady props for the scheme, however she needs to pay back all those victims, and spend a little time in club fed.

3DCGMODELER 3DCGMODELER said:

She needs to give all the money back, all 163 million of it... imho ...

howzz1854 said:

Now I am curious to see what she look like. is she all fat and ugly like Jubba the hutt?

lna2000 said:

The real answer to stop these criminals; express lane to a death penalty.

After the first couple of thousand are eliminated, maybe the rest will get the message.

Society is way to soft on penalties to criminals.

This is not some kid in the basement, this is real criminal activity and should be treated as such.

pounder said:

I've spent more time cleaning up friends and relatives hard drives of those "utilities" - more often than not having to a complete reformat and clean install of OS and all programs to get rid of that crap.

She also needs 163 million years in jail to go along with that fine.

Ditto!, Anybody have Names of The Software Discovered,?, I have spent my Life since 1979,&MS-Dos, trying crapout, that is a total waste of money, then forever cleaning registries,& eventually wiping HDD's, Newest example Last Night Tried Acronis Trial of 2013, again Crap!

pounder said:

What about life rotting in JAIL for her BS! and paying each one of us hundreds of $$$ for the mess

Plus interest,or Double what was hosed originally!

pounder said:

"You've obviously haven't been to a third world country if you would move there with that much money."

I couldn't agree more, Ramonsterns - the shops just aren't up to scratch...

Try, Belizw, Monaco,hell, even Dubai, & Kuwait, everybody is a billionaire, or trillionaire there!

Tygerstrike said:

@ina2000

I appreciate your sentiment, however youre forgetting that those are real ppl you are talking about. They may have commited a crime, but thats no excuse for taking thier life. Some are crimes of passion, some are convicted wrongfully. I would hate to think that if the situations were reversed and I myself was in jail/death row, that there would be others out there who although they wouldnt know me, would fight for my rights as a human being. Putting this Lady to death solves nothing except to make ppl "feel" better. I do not qualify that as a reason to put anyone to death.

Guest said:

Criminals robbing criminals.. that's all I see here.

Taycat Taycat said:

Criminals robbing criminals.. that's all I see here.

It took me a sec to get what you were talking about, oh my. I couldn't agree with you more.

Guest said:

@Ina2000

..express lane to a death penalty? you need to learn about law

Zoltan Head said:

Try, Belizw, Monaco,hell, even Dubai, & Kuwait, everybody is a billionaire, or trillionaire there!

Monaco is a third world country?

jizzyburnizzy said:

Those scams are horrible, but her software did keep my repair shop in business with lots of virus and spyware removals

Guest said:

Uh, no, 99% of us would not do it. Unlike you, most of us have a conscience.

lna2000 said:

@ina2000

I appreciate your sentiment, however youre forgetting that those are real ppl you are talking about. They may have commited a crime, but thats no excuse for taking thier life. Some are crimes of passion, some are convicted wrongfully. I would hate to think that if the situations were reversed and I myself was in jail/death row, that there would be others out there who although they wouldnt know me, would fight for my rights as a human being. Putting this Lady to death solves nothing except to make ppl "feel" better. I do not qualify that as a reason to put anyone to death.

I respect your opinion. I believe that by executing the evil in our society that we can eventually rid our society of evil. People who prey on others are now called bullies, lets rid our society of bullies. Putting people in prison only means they are on a bad welfare program at the cost of $40-50,000 per year per criminal.

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