Regulators crack down on telemarketing scareware scammers

By on October 4, 2012, 3:30 PM

Regulators from five countries including the US FTC have announced a crackdown on six scareware operations that imitated tech support agents to trick unwitting users into paying for the removal of fake malware. The scammers were mostly based in India and targeted English-speaking computer owners in the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. Five of the six operations used what the FTC describes as telemarketer boiler rooms to call users. The sixth focused on bogus Google ads.

Posing as support from companies such as Dell and Microsoft, the scammers directed victims to Windows' Event Viewer to use what were generally innocuous warning and error logs as proof of an infection. Once convinced their systems harbored malware, victims paid clean-up fees of $49 to $450 and aided the criminals with establishing a remote connection. The scammers then pretended to remove the viruses and installed free programs (presumably real security software, but the FTC doesn't say).

Surprisingly, there's no mention of the culprits using the remote connection to install malware, which probably would've been more lucrative. The FTC has identified at least 2,400 cases related to these firms in the US alone, though the agency has heard over 40,000 complaints about this type of fraud. The scammers reportedly used 80 different domain names, 130 different phone numbers and virtual offices that were actually just mail-forwarding facilities to dodge authorities, but it seems their luck ran out.

"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 said. Seeking to permanently halt the operations and win restitution for victims, the agency has filed six cases against 14 corporate defendants and 17 individual defendants in a New York district court.

Partial exchange between an investigator and one of the scammers

Note: Apologies for autoplay. There's no obvious way to disable it and the video is too amusing to exclude.

User Comments: 11

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VitalyT VitalyT said:

That was a laugh.

Guest said:

Good. My grandma almost got scammed by some guys claiming they were "Windows", who were trying to get her to buy a $300 "safety pack". Luckily, I'd just built her a PC a month before, so she deferred to me before making any stupid decisions.

lipe123 said:

We got a call almost EVERY day from one of our customers saying that Microsoft just called them and told them their computers are infected.

We even had a guy accuse us of installing a virus on his brand new pc lmao!

I'm glad they finally nailed these bastards!

1 person liked this | Guest said:

Here's a full converstation from some scammer:

Guest said:

I'm nearly A+ certified. I got a call from one of these scammers a few months ago. He told me he "sent messages to my computer" because of an infection. I asked him what my ip was, and of course, he immediately just restated that my computer is badly infected. I then asked him which one. He then said something like "sir, this is urgent your computer is badly infected!" I just told him he was bad at what he's doing and if he wants to trick me into giving away my money he will have to do better than that. Then I ended the call.

WaveZero said:

LOL I usually waste as much time as possible on those fools. So they have less time to scam other people and yeah.

Camikazi said:

LOL I usually waste as much time as possible on those fools. So they have less time to scam other people and yeah.

I haven't gotten one of these yet (got ones that looks for SS info or CC number) but they are fun to play with. Just pretend you are dumb and falling for it without actually giving anything away and you can be entertained for as long as you want spinning them in circles. Of course in the end you give them nothing and just hang up leaving them frustrated and with less time to try again so everyone wins

Camikazi said:

Here's a full converstation from some scammer:

OMG that is awesome, that guy who recorded that conversation is just awesome. I'm gonna need to remember some of those lines in case I ever get one of these calls.

mailpup mailpup said:

I screen all of my calls at home with my answering machine so I can't say if I've ever gotten one of those calls. Telemarketers typically hang up and don't leave a message when they hear my machine pick up. It's not as if I would return their call if they did anyway.

Guest said:

My wife got one of these calls, luckily I was there to have fun with this lady. said the neighborhood was downloading malware without our knowledge. automatically assumed I had a windows pc, so I was playing with her that I had a mac instead. if I didn't have to go to work I would of spent more time trying to see where they wanted me to go on the comp. I tried to ask where she was calling from and all she would say is I'm calling from "the help desk" or "computer maintenance dept". lol

Guest said:

I once got called by one of these guys claiming my Windows PC was infected... so I told him I had a Mac (I don't :P ) and he was flabbergasted, he literally didn't know what to say and kept claiming my Windows PC had a virus. I told him to f**k off and I hung up on him.

These scammers are scum, the only reason I give them the time of day is so they have less time to scam others.

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