FTC: Tech Support Scammers Made Millions Selling Unnecessary Software
The operators of an alleged tech support scam agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges that they tricked consumers into paying millions of dollars for technical support services they did not need and software that was otherwise free.
A judgement of more than $3 million is suspended, but under the settlement, Pairsys, Inc., and its owners, Tiya Bhattachara and Uttam Saha, are required to turn over multiple real estate properties as well as the contents of numerous bank accounts, and to give up the leases on two luxury cars: a 2013 Range Rover and a 2014 Maserati Quattroporte.
In its 2014 complaint, the FTC claims the scammers cold-called consumers pretending to be representatives of Microsoft or Facebook. The scammers also purchased deceptive online advertisements that lead consumers to believe that calls to Pairsys were actually calls to the companies' legitimate technical support numbers.
Once they were speaking to a sales rep from operators in an overseas call center, consumers were then given a deceptive high-pressure sales pitch. The scammers would then request remote access to consumers' computers, telling them that otherwise benign portions of their computers were actually signs of dangerous malware or viruses needing immediate repair.
The scammers would then pressure consumers into paying for computer security or technical support services, usually at a cost of $149 to $249, though in some cases the defendants charged as much as $600.
In addition to giving up any profits the company made from the scam, under the settlement the defendants are 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.