The FTC has reached settlements with two people and companies who the commission alleges were using fake pop-up ads and persuasive phone tactics to run a fake tech support scam.
The settlement includes a fine of more than $800,000 and a permanent ban on any of the defendants engaging in similar schemes. This settlement is the resolution of a case that began last fall when the FTC filed a complaint against Rupinder Kaur and Harinder Singh and other defendants as well as a number of companies they operated as part of the tech support scams. In the complaint, the FTC alleges that the defendants were using affiliate marketing companies to insert pop-up ads on websites warning visitors that their computers were infected with malware and they needed to call a tech support number right away.
“Defendants operate a telemarketing scheme that deceives consumers into purchasing unnecessary technical support or computer security services to address purported problems with their computers, regardless of whether problems with their computers· actually exist. Since at least 2013, Defendants have bilked millions of dollars from consumers throughout the United States. In carrying out their scheme, Defendants employ pop-up ads that warn consumers that their computers have been hacked, infected, or otherwise compromised, and are in immediate need of computer security or technical support service,” the complaint says.
“The pop-ups advise consumers to call a toll-free number to obtain that service, and mislead consumers into believing that they are contacting technical support providers affiliated with Microsoft, Apple, or other well-known companies. Instead, when consumers call, they reach Defendants’ telemarketing boiler room in India, where they are then subjected to Defendants’ deceptive and high pressure sales tactics.”
This settlement is part of a continuing effort by the FTC to go after people running phone scams, including tech support scams, which have been around in one form or another for many years. The schemes play on victims’ fear of malware and pressure them into paying for services they don’t need. The tech support scam ecosystem is a varied and complex one, and includes operations around the globe. There are multiple levels to most of these scams and they can bring in huge amounts of money for the operators.
Earlier this year, the FTC shut down a separate scam in which the operators were claiming to work for the FTC. The settlement with Kaur and Singh require the defendants to pay fines and prohibits them from being involved in any similar operations in the future.
“When tech support scams pop up, the FTC will take action,” said Tom Pahl, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.