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Continued: Whistleblower: Tech-support scams scare victims into spending

  • Article by: JANE FRIEDMANN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: June 22, 2013 - 5:30 PM

Shortly after the first interaction, Miller was called by someone allegedly located in Houston, Texas, who offered him tech support services. The address provided to Miller belongs to a business that offers “virtual office” space and services to companies that often have no physical address.

Later, another $190 charge showed up on Miller’s credit card bill, he said. He canceled the card, got the $190 charge reversed and had his bank account number changed because the account had been compromised, he said.

Enforcement

In October, the Federal Trade Commission announced that a U.S. District Court had frozen the assets of 14 companies and 17 individuals and ordered them to suspend activity pending trial. The companies allegedly used “telemarketing boiler rooms,” mainly in India. Some placed ads with Google “that appeared when consumers searched for their computer company’s real tech support number,” the FTC said.

The groups deceived tens of thousands of victims who were charged up to $330 to have nonexistent malicious software and viruses removed from their computers, the FTC said.

Mikael Marczak, doing business as Virtual PC Solutions, and Sanjay Agarwalla, parties to the 2012 lawsuits, settled with the FTC in April.

A judgment of $984,721 was entered against Marczak and one of his companies, but was suspended “due to their inability to pay the full amount,” the FTC said. They will instead “surrender almost all of their existing assets.” Agarwalla was fined $3,000.

Experts give advice

The FTC, Microsoft and others give the following advice.

If someone calls and offers tech-support advice, hang up. Legitimate companies do not cold-call you and offer to fix a problem for a fee. Know that not all businesses that advertise online are legitimate.

Don’t click on pop-up ads or visit websites allegedly containing fixes for computer problems. Instead, contact a local repair shop or call your computer company directly.

If you’ve been victimized, change your passwords, contact your credit card company, file a complaint with the FTC and have your computer checked for malware.

 

Jane Friedmann • 612-673-7852

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