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The FTC cracks down on tech support scammers

By Shawn Knight · 21 replies
May 14, 2017
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  1. The Federal Communications Commission recently announced a major crackdown on tech support scammers both domestically and abroad.

    As part of an ongoing initiative known as Operation Tech Trap, the FTC along with state, federal and international law enforcement partners have brought 16 new actions against deceptive tech support operations. Actions can include everything from complains and indictments to guilty pleas and settlements, the FTC said.

    The latest work brings the total number of actions against scammers to 29 in the past year.

    The FTC said most of the targets followed the same basic pattern of misconduct. That is, they would cause consumers’ computers to display ads that resemble security alert pop-ups from Apple, Microsoft or other reputable companies saying their machine was infected with a virus or had been hacked.

    Said pop-ups would urge users to call a toll-free number for help with the “issue.” Once they got on the line with an unscrupulous “customer service representative,” consumers would often be talked into shelling out hundreds of dollars for repairs, service plans, anti-virus protection or other software / services that weren’t necessary.

    Tech support scams are often associated with senior citizens but as Microsoft found last fall, millennials are often more susceptible to tech support scams versus their elders.

    Full details regarding the various settlements, indictments and arrests made as part of Operation Tech Trap can be found over on the FTC’s website.

    Permalink to story.

  2. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 4,478   +3,037

    Spending all the time on Facebook or chasing a Pokemon doesn't make them computer-savvy :)
  3. namesrejected

    namesrejected TS Guru Posts: 398   +302

    I'm so embarrassed, I'm a millennial... Well I'm barely a millennial.

    So is that why my Indian friend from " windows " ( not Microsoft ) quit calling? Darn, I would chat with him for hours getting nowhere ( cause I'm so not computer savvy, and would have to re-start frequently ). Maybe I should have told him I'm on Ubuntu.
    cliffordcooley and Peter Farkas like this.
  4. Jeffbuhrt

    Jeffbuhrt TS Rookie

    The 'tech support' group from India that has called at least three times is amazing. My wife was dying laughing one time... (she was driving, I was reading a pile of trade rags)... I said 'ok I am in front of my computer'... being a mostly Linux user I had to remember what various screens looked like... But I had him confused for at least 30min trying to figure out why what he needed me to run wouldn't work. I should have recorded it. It would have made a great TEDx talk. Moral: don't call an engineer who does security work when they have time to game YOU!!! (Hopefully it wasted enough time he couldn't attack someone else.) The problem is there is almost on way to stop them.
  5. I get the same tech support calls. I tell them they should be ashamed for what they are doing, preying on people who don't know better.
  6. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 2,199   +1,625

    namesrejected and Capaill like this.
  7. MannerMauler

    MannerMauler TS Addict Posts: 206   +53

    Hehe, I want to do this but I don't know the first thing about virtual boxes. Wanna learn. What I want to do, is call the number, and halfway through use a voice changer to some really creepy voice.
  8. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 5,393   +3,780

    I've got this guy that calls me regularly and tells me there is something wrong with my windows. I tell them my windows are new and working fine. He says what version do I have and I tell him I have Pella Windows after which he gets mad and hangs up on me ......... guess he has NO sense of humor at all!
    namesrejected and Capaill like this.
  9. amstech

    amstech IT Overlord Posts: 2,239   +1,439

    Most tech's are actually worse then they used to be as they don't understand the basics of operating systems, hardware and troubleshooting. Your average PC and smartphone user lacks significant meaningful IT knowledge.
  10. gusticles41

    gusticles41 TS Guru Posts: 403   +466

    Mhmm. Knowing how to use a computer is very different from knowing how a computer works.
    namesrejected likes this.
  11. Capaill

    Capaill TS Evangelist Posts: 896   +497

    Young people are so flipping gullible online and have no concept of digital security. Half of them would probably add a complete stranger to their 700+ FB friends if asked. My parents know to ignore any warning messages that pop up on their laptop and either ring me or power off the laptop until I can check it. We also regularly get calls about our computers being hacked and someone is right now downloading all our financial details - I strung them along once and then gave out to them for it but it's a waste of time. The calls keep coming. The Jolly Roger story is a good one, we need more of that.
  12. treetops

    treetops TS Evangelist Posts: 2,568   +559

    Wow think how stupid these millennials will be when their seniors...
  13. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 3,996   +2,292

  14. Ben Myers

    Ben Myers TS Enthusiast Posts: 74   +22

    I am confused by this article. The FCC and the FTC are two very different divisions of the federal government. Your article refers to both. So which one is actually cracking down? Please fix this article. Thanks.
  15. namesrejected

    namesrejected TS Guru Posts: 398   +302

    I try to share Jesus with them :p

    It always gets them going!
  16. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,972   +4,009

    Fixed! Remember, "there", (adverb denoting a place), "their", (adjective), "they're" ("They are" , a pronoun/verb contraction).

    Sorry for that. but it's sort of rude to indict an entire generation's lack of intelligence, with such an inadequate grasp of English homophones. (Note too, that I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of them)..

    Moving on, I often suggest that the caller and I, "skip the foreplay", and I'll just give them my passwords and credit card numbers. Apparently, Indians are so wrapped up in the Kama Sutra, they won't accept a cheap and tawdry "quickie". The context being, "how about if you just screw me and get it over with," and subsequently hang up on me".

    OK, so I may be cheap and easy, but that doesn't make me a bad person. I walk away gently mumbling to myself, "I can't believe I was hung up on again".
    Capaill and namesrejected like this.
  17. NatalieEGH

    NatalieEGH TS Rookie Posts: 16   +8

    1. Both agencies, FCC and FTC, have oversight in this area. That also means there is probably a lot of finger pointing and authority claiming. The Operation Tech Trap appears to be FTC based on this web page "https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/blogs/business-blog/2017/05/operation-tech-trap-targets-tech-support-scams-offers".

    2. "Most tech's are actually worse then they used to be as they don't understand the basics of operating systems, hardware and troubleshooting. Your average PC and smartphone user lacks significant meaningful IT knowledge.

    Mhmm. Knowing how to use a computer is very different from knowing how a computer works."

    I disagree. To not know the basics of OS, hardware, and troubleshooting, makes the user little better than a trained chimpanzee. In fact there are several chimpanzees that are capable of using a touch screen computer. They are at the Regenstein Center for African Apes of the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. The article about them was in the Los Angeles Times. The web page covering is http://articles.latimes.com/2005/dec/02/nation/na-apes2. True the apes basically sign on to choose what they desire for dinner but then they have more important things to do than to text their friends. Of course no one ever tried to teach Lucy to use a computer, that would be really interesting since she has been teaching other apes American Sign Language. Yes, a chimp that can communicate in 2 languages. Sounds smarter than most American college graduates.

    Now I am sure your local computer users are a little more qualified than Keos, but from what they displaying I do not see a lot of proof.
  18. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,972   +4,009

    American colleges and universities teach many other subjects besides IT and zoology. I'm going to suggest not everyone desires to choose a path which concludes with a degree in either subject.

    As I said in a prior response post, (which was removed):

    1: some scientists believe that "Homo sapiens" should be included in the genus "Pan", with the other two species of chimpanzee, "Troglodytes" and "Paniscus".

    2: Even the average under educated welfare recipient or street thug has a working vocabulary of 2000 to 3000 words.

    Now, has anyone asked "Lucy" if she wants to be forced to go into IT, or perhaps desires to follow her dream of a degree in English literature or art history?

    Please also note, a working knowledge of computers doesn't really make you better than everyone else.

    Here is a more representative take on the habits and dangers of the chimpanzee in the wild: https://www.quora.com/Which-ape-is-more-dangerous-a-gorilla-or-chimpanzee

    After all, one particularly advanced individual shouldn't be taken to represent an entire species. If that were the case, "E=MC2", would have been Albert Einstein merely, "stating the obvious".
    Last edited: May 16, 2017
  19. NatalieEGH

    NatalieEGH TS Rookie Posts: 16   +8

    Just a reply to captaincranky

    I attempted to put this is a private message but it was not allowed due to length.

    I am not European. I was born on Lackland AFB. I did live in Europe for about 10 years as both a military brat and then part of a 20 year military career.

    I never applied to such schools and I had to work to pay my tuition as was even with a two scholarships.

    I respect most of the future job based training/education of most institutions of higher learning whether technical as M.I.T., Cal Tech, Poly Tech, xxx Tech, or none technical such as such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, USC, ... That does not say they require knowledge of a foreign language. I checked the general education requirements of M.I.T., Cal Tech, and Harvard. None of them require even on class of foreign language. It is a pity and also proof of the arrogance of Americans. We expect, no demand, others to speak our language but refuse to grant them the same rights to demand we speak their language.

    I hardly expect the average computer user to have my skills. I spent over 40 years acquiring them. I do expect individuals born in the United States after 1970 to have reasonable computer skills. This includes knowledge of computer malware and how to minimize exposure probability, knowledge of electronic banking, its risks, and how to mitigate them, and risk management concerning phishing and giving out user credentials and access to their systems.

    For too long we have made excuses for the fact that the last generation has lower skills in mathematics and language than that required to graduate schools at the turn of the 20th century. If you doubt that buy a copy of one the primers from that period. Some say there is just a lot more to learn. I disagree, there are simply new things to learn. Many skills and areas of knowledge required at that time are no longer taught.

    Do I look down upon people? Only when I think they are doing less than their best. A shoeshine boy that polishes to a mirror finish is as worthy of praise as a neurosurgeon that just saved both a life, a brain, and a mind. A farmer can also be a master of his craft.

    That said, I find it difficult to respect someone that REFUSES to learn about basic computer security and who constantly endanger what they consider important whether pictures, bank accounts, or even their diary. That is skill required of today's society in America, and every bit as critical as farming, plant lore, animal husbandry, and hunting were in colonial America. Not learning is a deliberate act of stupidity. People of my generation and earlier have at least some excuse as they did not grow up in the information age of America.

    As to the greatest minds in history, while I deeply respect Albert Einstein, I think Isaac Newton, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Archimedes were probably greater minds. That said I like the quote of Einstein, “Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” I apologize for choosing only Europeans but there are so few records of the accomplishments of individuals in other areas of the globe so we do not know who did or discovered what.
    captaincranky likes this.
  20. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 14,972   +4,009

    @NatalieEGH I understand and agree with what you've said. I do think, (yes, in spite of my screen name), that you may have made your original in the post a bit too aggressively. Sadly, ours is a rapidly deteriorating culture. I've had most of my ideals beat out of me, by living in a hood.

    I'm of what I consider to be of "average" computer literacy. And "yeah, though I surf in the shadow of some of the shadiest "adult erotic art websites", I will fear no malware, for the lord Firefox and his disciple "NoScript" is with me". I don't, and never will, own a "smartphone". I'm also involved with my own photography, and digital imaging. These are tasks I've been trained to do. I don't feel I need any sort of IT degree to effectively accomplish them. From here, it seems(seemed?), like you were holding everyone, (either too optimistically or naively), to your standards.

    I've been around for quite a while as well, and I can vividly remember an episode of "Buck Rogers in the 24th Century", where people were so dependent on the computer, that any type of such device was banned from a casino. Predictably, the house always won.

    In any event, the Einsteins of the world, will always be a 1/100 of a percent minority, while the rest of the population idles lazily, breeding to their hearts content..

    So, in this modern world, consumerism is the recognized, "one true God", and he, (or she, if you like), demands that any new innovation be tailored to the lowest common denominator of technical ability. Face it, you and I simply can't buy enough computer artifacts to sustain a company the size of Intel. So, you have a lot of real dummies running around with the latest high tech toys.. Obviously, one should have higher ideals and expectations of others you meet, while integrating oneself into a tech oriented website such as Techspot. That being said, we have developers and IT people here as members. Admittedly, I'm here observing the sociological impact of the computer, more so than to learn programming in Python.

    I'm given to wild analogies such as yourself. In fact, one particular episode of "Nova", called, "Dogs Decoded" struck me with heretofore un-imagined intensity. Did you know that dogs can read a human's emotions better than most other humans? Or that one particular dog could pick correctly from as many as 500 hidden objects, by voice command?

    As I said before, some scientists think we should be included in the genus "Pan" along with the chimps. We get a reprieve, simply because the genus "Homo" was named first. But, if you want to make that comparison, you have to take note that the run of the mill ordinary human, has a vocabulary of 2000+ words. And while its extraordinary what chimps and other members of the animal kingdom have been proven to be able to do, we do have to compare the most severely retarded among us, to say that other animals have superior skills.

    We also live in a world of extreme specialization. I don't think you should be able to conclude, that a neurosurgeon, should also know everything about IT.

    In his novel, "Brave New World", Aldous Huxley envisioned a segment of society populated with nothing but "Alpha" individuals". With that many people who "knew it all", trapped in an closed society, no surprise emerged when the "World Council" was called in to restore order, and break it up.

    Applying some latitude to your rather strict ideals, might ease your transition into this particular site's environment. As I alluded to earlier, my eyes glaze over when confronted with a page of HTML, but generally speaking, I don't have problems I can't solve on my own, with respect to my (desktop) computers.

    If you are truly interested in the behaviour of chimpanzees, this Wiki page on the Bonobo variety, should prove astounding to you.. *That assumes of course, you haven't seen it already. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonobo

    OK, that's long winded enough, (at least it will have to do for the time being).

    Oh, and before I forget, welcome to Techspot!

    I don't think you can count the huddled masses accountable for their misuse and abuse of their tech toys. After all, aren't toys created with the eventually in mind, they'll be, at some point in time, broken and replaced. But from an institutional standpoint, they can't be allowed to succumb to invasion, ever. Arguably, we don't need a smarter population, (although it might be nice to have such), but we do need better IT management at "St. Elsewhere".
    Last edited: May 17, 2017
  21. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 3,996   +2,292

    You've obviously not met my father-in-law. When he tries to solve problems, chance plays a big part. He knows nothing about how a computer works on a basic level yet alone how what he does relates to what he is trying to solve.

    He has a basic understanding of how to use the computer, but has no idea how it works or how to solve problems. As I see it, he literally treats his computer as if it were a picture puzzle. When something does not work, he tries to fit pieces in slots where they do not fit. My wife constantly has to fix what he has broken, and one thing for sure is that he will break it again.

    My father-in-law is not a chimpanzee. Rather, he is fairly well educated in a technical / laboratory technician fashion circa 1950 or so. If his computer had four or five parts, he could probably figure it out since, somewhat to his credit, he does try things. The big difference, at least as I see it, is that in solving a computer problem, one really needs to have knowledge beyond the level of a user, however, to use a computer, one needs little, if any, understanding of how it works.

    Even where I am employed, many people have no understanding of how a computer works. They, as I see it, are in the majority. Few understand computers at a deeper level.
  22. MDunn

    MDunn TS Rookie

    Is the FTC this action-averse with other sectors? IMO, 29 seems like a really low number compared to how common a practice this is.. and the potential harm done by the scammers.

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