After winning a lawsuit against the operators of an alleged tech support scam, the FTC is returning some of the money taken from victims of the scam.
The commission won a settlement of $10 million from the defendants, which included companies doing business as Advanced Tech Support and Inbound Call Experts. The fund will be used to provide refunds to consumers who were victimized as part of phone fraud schemes that were pushing fake tech support services. The FTC reached the settlement in December and victims will be receiving emails soon from the commission informing of the refund.
“According to the complaint, defendant Inbound Call Experts, doing business as Advanced Tech Support along with other defendants, used high-pressure sales pitches to telemarket tech support products and services falsely claiming to find viruses and malware on consumers’ computers,” the FTC said in a statement.
The commission estimated that victims of this scam lost more than $120 million over the years it was in operation.
Fake tech support scams have become a serious threat to consumers in the last few years as fraudsters have looked for reliable, easy sources of income. Most of the schemes follow a simple script, with a fraudster calling a victim and telling her that he has detected a problem with her computer. The fraudster will then try to convince the victim to install a remote-access tool that enables him to take control of the victim’s PC. Usually, the fraudster will tell the victim that there are a number of viruses or other problems on her machine and then try to sell her tech support services to fix the issues.
The FTC has been putting serious pressure on the operators of tech support scams, bringing lawsuits against them and obtaining injunctions against the companies involved in them. There many different flavors of these phone scams, including one in which the scammers pretended to work for the FTC itself, and another in which the fraudsters were pushing fake government grants.