The Federal Trade Commission and the Florida Attorney General halted a tech scam operation run by Vast Tech Support, OMG Tech Help, and executive Mark Donohue that reaped millions of dollars from thousands of consumers by selling bogus technical support services, the agency asserted.

In a complaint filed in Florida federal court, the FTC and the Florida AG claimed the defendants violated the Federal Trade Commission Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule, and the state's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act by using software designed to trick consumers into believing there were problems with their computers.

The defendants ran ads claiming that the PC HealthBoost free system scan would dramatically speed up computers and prevent crashes. When consumers downloaded a free version of the product for the scan, the regulators alleged that it initiated a bogus computer system scan that "invariably" detected hundreds or thousands of purported errors in need of repair.

To "fix" the purported errors, the defendants then offered consumers a $29.97 version of the software with instructions to call a toll-free number to activate the product. Consumers who did so then faced telemarketers who relied on "high-pressure deceptive sales pitches" with additional offers of tech support products and services, sometimes by taking remote access of the computer and falsely claiming that the information displayed showed evidence of malware, the FTC and AG alleged.

According to the complaint, the defendants caused more than $22 million in consumer injury.

The settlement prohibits the defendants from misleading consumers about the nature of the products they sell or market as well as deceptive telemarketing. The corporate entities also face a ban on advertising, promoting, or selling any tech support products or services. Monetary judgments of $9 million (Donohue) and $27.2 million (the corporate defendants) were suspended.

To read the complaint and the stipulated orders in FTC v. Boost Software, click here.

Why it matters: The defendants ran afoul of both state and federal law with their tech scam, the FTC and Florida AG alleged, by deceiving consumers into paying for their products with bogus computer scans and false claims of malware.