The Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against a group of defendants that engaged in a tech-related scam where consumers were tricked into paying for support services they did not need or software that was available for free.
Employees of Pairsys, Inc. cold-called consumers pretending to be associated with various online social media companies to pitch security programs and tech support, the agency alleged. Once on the phone, the FTC said the defendants would try to gain remote access to the consumer’s computer to imply that benign portions of the operating system contained viruses and malware.
Some callers were told that their computer was “severely compromised” and needed immediate “repair.”
By frightening consumers via the phone calls as well as through deceptive Internet ads that suggested the business offered legitimate services, the defendants sold security programs and tech support which had “no value at all,” according to the FTC. Consumers paid between $149 to $249 for otherwise freely available software or a warranty program, although some paid up to $600.
Since 2012, the defendants have reaped almost $2.5 million, the FTC told the court in its complaint alleging violations of both the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule.
A federal court judge in New York granted a preliminary injunction that prohibits the defendants from making misrepresentations to consumers about the company they represent or whether the consumer has spyware or viruses on their computer. The order also bans Pairsys, Inc. and two related individuals from illegal telemarketing practices, freezes their assets, and forbids the sale of customer lists to a third party.
The complaint seeks a permanent injunction as well as restitution for duped consumers.
To read the complaint and temporary restraining order in FTC v. Pairsys, Inc., click here.
Why it matters: Similar tech support scams were the subject of a “major, international” crackdown by the FTC in 2012, when the agency filed six actions against defendants who tricked consumers into purchasing fixes for viruses or malware. Those cases yielded more than $5 million for the FTC, which continues to keep its eye on the issue.