The Federal Trade Commission hit Global Access Technical Support (and related individuals and entities) with an action accusing the defendants of hiring affiliate marketers to use pop-up ads to trick consumers into believing that their computers were infected with malware or viruses.

The ads, which sometimes hijacked browsers with loud alarms or recorded messages, intimated that they originated from the computer's operating system and came from legitimate technology companies like Apple and Microsoft, the FTC alleged. If consumers called the number provided in the ads, they were connected with a call center in India and then given a hard sell by a telemarketer who claimed that access to the consumers' computer was necessary.

Once remote access to the computer was obtained, the telemarketer would show the consumer innocuous screen shots (sometimes of directories, for example) and claim that they demonstrated the presence of malware or a virus. Consumers were duped into paying between $200 and $400 for unnecessary repair services as a result, the FTC said, and the defendants paid the affiliate marketers a commission based on the number of leads or calls generated from consumers seeking technical support.

A federal court judge in Missouri granted the agency's request for an order halting the defendants' operations and freezing their assets.

To read the complaint and temporary restraining order in FTC v. Global Access Technical Support, click here.

Why it matters: The FTC has brought prior actions against similar tech scams in recent months. It halted an operation that used software designed to trick consumers into believing there were problems with their computers and expanded a suit in conjunction with the Attorneys General of Connecticut and Pennsylvania involving consumers who paid for unnecessary technical support plans and services.