Posted by David Harley on October 26, 2014.
Will no-one rid us of these turbulent tech support scammers with their cold-calling, their misleading advice, fake viruses and fake support package deals? It was back in the early summer of 2010 (it seems much longer!) that I first wrote about a support scammer claiming to represent Microsoft who rang a potential victim…
“…informing him that notification had been received concerning a virus infection on his PC, and offering to help him to install antivirus software.”
At that time I was particularly irritated because:
“When asked what antivirus software was being offered, the caller claimed that it was ESET’s…”
And no security company wants to be accused of unethical selling practices.
However, this turned out to be the tip of a very large and ugly iceberg, with a wide range of increasingly sophisticated gambits used to trick the victim into thinking they needed ‘help’. A lot of time and effort expended on raising awareness of the issue doesn’t seem to have paid much in the way of dividends. However, Kelly Fiveash, for The Register, reports that US court SHUTS DOWN ‘scammers posing as Microsoft, Facebook support staff’: Netizens allegedly duped into paying for bogus tech advice.
The documentation lodged by the Federal Trade Commission in the case of the New York-based company Pairsys Inc. suggests that the scam, if the allegations turn out to be correct, would have been along familiar lines:
“Defendants operate a telemarketing scheme that tricks consumers into spending approximately $149 – $249 to fix non-existent problems with their computers. By exploiting consumers’ legitimate concerns about Internet threats like spyware and viruses, Defendants scare consumers into believing that their computers are infected or corrupted. Defendants do not present genuine evidence of the computers being infected or corrupted, and instead present either innocuous system information or messages they have generated in order to scare consumers.”
For the moment, the company is “banned from deceptive telemarketing practices, and may not sell or rent their customer lists to any third party. The injunction requires that their websites and telephone numbers must be shut down and disconnected, and their assets be frozen.”
However, even if the allegations are proven, this is just one company which happens to be in the District Court’s backyard. I’ve seen little evidence that the FTC’s efforts have had significant impact in India, where most of the companies associated with support scamming (and other cold-call scams) seem to be concentrated. The FTC has actually been having an effect in the US, but there are umpteen scammers to go, and most of them aren’t in the US…
It’s not going to solve the problem, but I maintain a page of cold-call support scam resources here that includes links to just about every useful article related to the topic that I’ve ever come across.
Small Blue-Green World
ESET Senior Research Fellow