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A U.S. District Court has ordered the operators of several international tech support companies to pay more than 5.1 million, acting on Federal Trade Commission charges that they masqueraded as major computer companies, tricked consumers into believing their computers were riddled with malware and then charging consumers to “fix” them. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued default judgments against fourteen corporate defendants and fourteen individual defendants that allegedly ran the tech support operations, mostly based in India and targeting English-speaking consumers in the United States and several other countries.
The default judgments permanently ban the defendants from marketing any computer security-related technical support service, and from disclosing, selling or failing to dispose of information they obtained from victims. The FTC filed the complaints in September 2012. The defendants claimed they were affiliated with legitimate companies, including Dell, Microsoft, McAfee, and Norton, and told consumers they had detected malware that posed an imminent threat to their computers. The defendants then charged these consumers hundreds of dollars to remotely access and “fix” the computers. The FTC charged the defendants with violating the FTC Act, which bars unfair and deceptive commercial practices. In five of the cases, the FTC also charged the defendants with violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule and calling numbers on the Do Not Call Registry.