Your BBB has just heard some good news for consumers. According to a Press Release from the FTC, “the operators of an alleged tech support scam agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they tricked consumers into paying millions of dollars for technical support services they did not need and software that was otherwise free.” The FTC filed the complaint against the company, Pairsys, Inc. and its owners, Tiya Bhattachara and Uttam Saha last year alleging that the “defendants participated in deceptive and unfair acts or practices in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act, 15 U .S.C. § 45, and the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (“TSR”), 16 C.F.R. Part 310, in connection with the marketing, promotion, offering for sale, or sale of computer security or technical support services.”
According to that complaint and other court documents, the company cold-called consumers and pretended to be from Microsoft or Facebook and also purchased deceptive online ads that tricked consumers into thinking they were calling the technical support line for legitimate companies. Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, was quoted as follows in the original Press Release. “The defendants behind Pairsys targeted seniors and other vulnerable populations, preying on their lack of computer knowledge to sell ‘security’ software and programs that had no value at all.”
The so-called tech support person would convince a consumer to allow him/her to gain remote access over the consumer’s computer by claiming the computer was infected with multiple viruses and/or malware and had to be fixed right away. According to the recent Press Release, “consumers were pressured into buying bogus warranty programs and software that was available for free, usually at a cost of $149 to $249, and in some cases, $600. The FTC alleges the company made nearly $2.5 million since early 2012.
In the Stipulated Order for Permanent Injunction and Monetary Judgment, the Defendants neither admit nor deny any of the allegations in the Complaint, except as specifically stated in the Order. According to the Press Release, under the terms of the settlement, the defendants must pay $3,095,037.02 or “surrender the contents of numerous bank accounts and a safe deposit box, along with two pieces of real estate in Albany, NY.” In addition, they are required to “terminate the leases on a 2013 Range rover and a 2014 Maserati Quattroporte.” The defendants are also banned from selling any technical support service to consumers, from participating in any telemarketing generally, from making any misrepresentations to consumers in the sale of a good or service, and from collecting money for any technical support service.
Here are some tips from the FTC.
If you receive such a call:
• Hang up and call the company yourself at a phone number you know is genuine.
• Don’t give control of your computer to someone who calls you out of the blue.
• Don’t rely on caller ID alone. Scammers can spoof caller ID numbers.
• Don’t rely on an online search to find tech support or get a company’s contact information. Look for a company’s contact information on their software package or on your receipt.
• Never give your credit card or financial information to such a caller.
• Never give your password over the phone. No legitimate organization calls you and asks for your password.
If you’ve become a victim of this scam:
• Scan your computer with your legitimate security software and delete anything it identifies as a problem.
• Change your passwords.
• If you paid for bogus services with a credit card, call your credit card company and ask to reverse the charges. Also check your credit card statements for other charges you didn’t make and ask to reverse those, too.
• If you believe the scammers may have accessed your personal or financial information, visit: www.bbb.org/council/news-events/consumer-tips/2015/02/bbb-advice-on-what-to-do-after-a-data-breach-compromises-your-identity/ or http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft2012/.
For more information you can trust, visit bbb.org/evansville.