We are so accustomed to seeing dialog/boxes error messages popping up on our computer screens that come from our computers, sometimes people have a hard time telling the difference between one of those and an Internet popup that looks very similar telling us our computer is infected and we need to contact a certain number for tech support. We're especially vulnerable when we're not confident that we fully understand how our computer works and what can go wrong with it.
Here's an FTC/State of Ohio case where some of those scammers were prosecuted.
"The operators of a computer tech support scam are permanently banned from the tech support business as part of a settlement to resolve charges by the Federal Trade Commission and the State of Ohio that the defendants tricked consumers into believing their computers were infected with viruses and malware, and then charged them hundreds of dollars for unnecessary repairs.
According to a complaint filed last year by the FTC, the defendants contacted consumers through advertisements that resembled pop-up security alerts from well- known technology companies. These ads appeared on consumersâ€™ computer screens when they were browsing the Internet. The complaint alleged that the ads falsely warned consumers that their computers were infected with viruses or had been hacked or otherwise compromised, and urged them to immediately call a toll-free number for assistance.
The complaint further alleges that once consumers called the toll-free number listed on the ads, they were connected to a call center and pitched by telemarketers who claimed to be affiliated with technology companies such as Microsoft or Apple. After gaining access to consumersâ€™ computers, the telemarketers purported to run a series of â€œdiagnostic testsâ€ to show that their computers had major problems requiring immediate repair. The telemarketers then persuaded consumers to buy a one-time â€œfixâ€ or long-term service plans that cost hundreds of dollars."
This angers me - big judgments, but low-ball settlements. It's a slap on the hand:
"The settlements also impose a $12.4 million judgment, which will be suspended upon payment by the defendants of a total of $122,376.39. A separate settlement approved by the Commission and entered by the court in November with the Ohio-based defendants -- Repair All PC LLC, Pro PC Repair LLC, I Fix PC LLC, Serrano and Khanna â€“ imposes a $12.4 million judgment, which will be suspended upon payment of $27,000."