In May 2017, the Federal Trade Commission, along with federal, state, and international law enforcement partners, announced “Operation Tech Trap,” a nationwide and international crackdown on tech support scams that trick consumers into believing their computers have a virus and then charge those consumers money for unnecessary repairs.
As part of Operation Tech Trap, the FTC and the State of Ohio filed a complaint in federal court in Ohio against defendants Repair All PC LLC, Pro PC Repair LLC, I Fix PC LLC, WebTech World LLC, Online Assist LLC, Datadeck LLC, and I Fix PC d/b/a Techers247, as well as individual defendants Jessica Marie Serrano, Dishant Khanna, Mohit Malik, Romil Bhatia, Lalit Chadha, and Roopkala Chadha.
According to the FTC and the State of Ohio, the defendants contacted consumers through online advertisements that appeared to be pop-up security alerts from well-known companies such as Microsoft or Apple. The complaint alleged that the ads falsely warned consumers that their computers were infected with a virus or had been hacked, and urged consumers to call a toll-free number. Once consumers called the number, telemarketers, who claimed to be affiliated with tech companies, gained access to the consumer’s computer and ran “diagnostic tests” that appeared to show that the consumer’s computer had major problems. The telemarketers then sold the consumer a one-time “fix” or a long-term service plan, costing hundreds of dollars.
The defendants entered into a settlement agreement with the FTC and Ohio, which was approved by the district court on January 26, 2018. The settlement imposes a $12.4 million judgment that will be suspended upon payment of $122,376.39. The Ohio defendants entered into a separate settlement that imposes a $12.4 million judgment that will be suspended upon payment of $27,000.
As part of the settlement agreement, all of the defendants are barred from: (1) offering tech support products and services; (2) engaging in deceptive telemarketing practices; (3) misrepresenting their affiliation with another company; and (4) collecting or attempting to collect payment for tech support products or services.
The FTC’s news release on the action is available here.