Beware the new anti-virus software scam

By: Lisa Lagace

Telemarketers in India have conned tens of thousands of consumers in six countries – including Canada – into buying anti-virus software. Tens of millions of dollars have already been lost to this scam, according to the U.S Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Here’s how it works: scammers pose as tech support workers employed by major computer companies from within the consumers’ home country, convincing them they have a virus on their computer and it can be fixed for a fee of between $49 and $450. According to the FTC, the victims were directed to a website that gave the callers remote access to their computers. The callers then claimed to remove the malicious software and download otherwise free anti-virus programs.

“These scams have fleeced English-speaking consumers worldwide likely to the tune of tens of millions of dollars and resulted in innumerable do-not-call violations in the United States,” Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the FTC, said at a news conference held on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

While a handful of the operations were based in the United States and the United Kingdom, the majority came from India, targeting consumers in the U.S, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K.

The news conference also included Canada’s broadcasting and telecom regulator, who noted officials are taking action against these companies for violating Canada’s telemarketing rules by calling people on the National Do Not Call list.

Pecon Software Ltd. and Avaneesh Software Private Ltd. have been ordered by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to stop their telemarketing activities and pay respective fines of $495,000 and $12,000.

“The CRTC does not have criminal enforcement powers of any kind. We do know there have been some victims in Canada, and we do know there are agencies that are empowered to go after this type of fraudulent telemarketing and we must leave it to them to do that work,” said Andrea Rosen, chief compliance officer for the regulator in an interview.

The U.S regulator filed six different court complaints against 14 corporate defendants and the judge issued a temporary restraining order, freezing their assets.

The FTC received more than 40,000 complaints from Americans who had received phony malware scam calls, although not all of these were related to the same companies now being investigated.

Microsoft’s director of consumer affairs and senior policy counsel, Frank Torres, said in a press conference that they do not call their consumers, and recommended customers hang up if they recieve unsolicited calls about their computer troubles.

Sources: The Provence, Financial Post

Photo © blackred

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