November 20, 2019
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The FTC has shut down a phone and email scam that involved scammers contacting consumers, falsely claiming to be working on behalf of the FTC and offering fake tech support services.
The scheme is a twist on the old Windows tech support scam in which fraudsters call consumers and try to sell remote tech support services by pretending to be from Microsoft. The scam has been going on for many years, with a number of different variations, some of which involve the scammers installing malware on victims’ computers and demanding money to remove it.
The version that the FTC targeted this week has the added element of the fraudsters using the FTC as their authority. On Tuesday, the commission got an injunction against Daniel Croft, a Florida man whom the FTC alleges was running this scheme for several months through various tech support businesses.
“Since at least July 2016, Defendant Croft, who purports to run a technical support company called PC Guru Tech Support or PC Guru, has been deceptively marketing, advertising, promoting, and offering for sale technical support services by falsely representing to consumers that he is affiliated with the FTC and that he has been appointed by the FTC to contact consumers to provide technical support services,” the complaint says.
“The FTC doesn’t hire companies to contact people and give technical support.”
“In an attempt to further deceive consumers and reinforce the belief that Defendant is affiliated with the FTC and has been appointed to contact consumers on the FTC’s behalf, the Defendant states that he has included in the emails the ‘Federal Trade Commission Report,’ which names his company, PC Guru, to perform this work on behalf of the FTC.”
The emails sent to victims say that the recipient’s computer is infected with malware and is sending data back to hackers. If a consumer called the number in the message sent by Croft’s company, the FTC says, Croft answered and “again falsely represents that he has been hired by the FTC to assist consumers in removing any software downloaded on their computers by Fast Fix 123 or One Bit IT.” Consumers who fell for the scam would allow Croft to access their computers remotely, supposedly to remove the malware on them, the FTC complaint says.
“The FTC doesn’t hire companies to contact people and give technical support,” Will Maxson, assistant director, division of marketing practices at the FTC, said in a post on the scheme. “If you get a pop up, call, spam email or any other urgent message – from anyone – about a virus on your computer, stop. Don’t click on any links, don’t send any money, and don’t give anyone control of your computer. The person behind the message probably wants access to your computer to grab your data, install malware, or sell you unnecessary services.”
The injunction requires Croft to stop purporting to be from the FTC, shut down his web domains and phone numbers, and tell any current customers that he does not represent the FTC in any way.