Did you ever happen to receive some worrying and urgent notification that your computer has severe technical issues only a designated software or tech support company can solve? If you fell for this trick, you probably fed a lot of money to a scheming operation. Such fake tech support companies are not a thing of the present, but the good news is they are starting to fall down.
A Wednesday report tells us that the Federal Trade Commission managed to obtain a court order to shut down two telemarketing companies in Florida, charged with tricking tens of thousands of customers into buying fake tech support. The scheme was evaluated at more than $120 million. Following the court order issued on Wednesday, the FTC managed to freeze the defendants’ assets and put the companies’ executives under close observation.
According to the FTC officials,
“These operations prey on consumers’ lack of technical knowledge with deceptive pitches and high-pressure tactics to sell useless software and services to the tune of millions of dollars. There’s no excuse for it, and we are pleased the court has taken steps to temporarily shut down these scams while our lawsuit proceeds.”
If you are curious about the names of these companies, they are Boost Software Inc. and Vast Tech Support, its related operation. Boost Software’s CEO, Amit Mehta, was specifically named in the FTC’s case for being the mastermind behind the scam. Coincidentally or not, his partner, Vast’s CEO, is a man called Elliot Loewenstern, a “close friend” of convicted con artist Jordan Belfort.
How does the scam work? First, you stumble upon a website like Boost Software, which takes pride in its programs dedicated to improve your computer’s speed, performances or security. You may be tempted to download a free trial version, to see how your computer performs.
Of course, the demo version will return a long list of errors that need to be solved on the spot, if you ever want your computer to work. As you may have guessed, these errors are shown to you regardless of your computer’s real problems.
Next, you will be urged to solve the errors by buying the “full” version of the software. Some companies stop here and party with your money. A $50 dollars loss is not something to throw you on the verge of a breakdown.
Other companies, like these two mentioned above, go even deeper into your pockets. The plot thickens when you are pushed into calling a toll-free number to “activate” the software you bought. From that point on, you fall into the hands of telemarketers who will scare you and push you into buying completely unnecessary and fake tech support services.
If you don’t have enough tech knowledge and their scare tactics find a fertile ground to grow panic in your heart, you are very likely to pay up to $500 for a service or a product you never needed in the first place.
While everybody applauded the FTC’s action and vigilance towards these fake tech support companies, you should be also vigilant, as schemes like these take place almost everyday.