Indian Scammers Make Calls Offering Tech Support
October 3, 2012

Indian Scammers Make Calls Offering Tech Support

Peter Suciu for — Your Universe Online

No doubt we´ve all seen the warnings — “your computer is infected with viruses, Click Here.” The wise advice is to close the pop up window or leave the website offering the advice and look to reliable virus solutions. But many consumers have been duped into believing their computers were infected, and paid a bogus so-called tech support service to clean their machine.

But instead of waiting for consumers to call the scam tech-support lines, scammers from India reportedly have resorted to making calls, claiming to work for companies such as Google and Microsoft. The callers would attempt to dupe users into giving them remote access to fix their computers, locking out the user while the “fix” was conducted.

Fortunately the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is looking to do some cleaning of its own, and on Wednesday it was reported that the FTC shut down a series of these tech support scams, many of which were operating from India. Federal regulators have alleged that the firms impersonated major companies to trick computer users.

The FTC announced that a U.S. judge had ordered a halt to six “scareware” operations and moved to freeze their assets. This followed an investigation that involved cooperation with the officials in the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Microsoft representatives were also reportedly involved in this crackdown.

The FTC reportedly was sending a delegation to India to work with authorities in the cases, which according to the FTC involved six firms that conducted deceptive commercial practices. The overall FTC case further targeted 14 corporate defendants along with 17 individuals in a total of six different legal filings. The companies included Pecon Software Ltd., Finmaestros LLC, Zeal IT Solutions Pvt. Ltd., Virtual PC Solutions, Lakshmi Infosoul Services Pvt. Ltd., and PCCare247, Inc.

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said the schemes were mainly targeted at English-speaking consumers, with calls originating from India. The groups involved used online ads that informed users that their computers were infected, and then sold “fixes” at prices ranging from $49 to $450.

According to the Associated Press the FTC said that the tech-support scam even involved telemarketing schemes where the companies claimed they worked for such firms as Microsoft and Dell, and told consumers and that they had detected a virus or other malware.

The scammers reportedly tried to avoid detection by using virtual offices, along with more than 80 different domain names and 130 different phone numbers. According to ZDNet, officials said many of the scammers in India used U.S. phone carriers while the carriers agreed to block the numbers to avoid detection. In total it is believed that there were tens of thousands of victims across six countries.

“At one level, it's like a bad Bollywood movie, but at another level it's a ripoff of consumers,” Leibowitz said at a news conference, while he also played an audio recording of one of the alleged calls. “In these outrageous and disturbing cons you get a call from someone pretending to be from a major computer company who dupes you into thinking you have a virus on your computer.”

At Wednesday´s news conference in Washington, D.C., Frank Torres, director of consumer affairs and senior policy counsel for Microsoft, told reporters that “these scams can only cost victims money, but can compromise the security of their computers.”

“Microsoft will never cold call a consumer and ask for a credit card number to charge them for a service they don´t need,” he added.

Canada´s top telecom regulatory official, Andrea Rosen of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, added that two related enforcement actions were filed in Canada as well.