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FTC launches international crackdown on tech-support scams

October 03, 2012|By Salvador Rodriguez
  • A screenshot of a video shared by the FTC showing an example of a tech support scam.
A screenshot of a video shared by the FTC showing an example of a tech support… (FTC )

The Federal Trade Commission is teaming up with tech companies and regulatory agencies around the world to crack down on tech-support scams that may have already cost U.S. consumers tens of millions of dollars.

In a tech-support scam, typically originating out of India, callers claiming to be with a trusted security company tell consumers that their computers may have been infected with a virus or malware.

The callers then trick people into purchasing anti-virus software they don't need, which can often range in price from $49 to $450.

Sometimes the scams also begin with Google Ads that appear when users search for tech companies' support numbers. These ads include toll-free numbers that lead them to the scammers.

The FTC said it's received 2,400 complaints about tech-support scams but suspects the number of affected victims to be substantially higher.

The agency's chairman Jon Leibowitz said six court-ordered restraining orders have been issued that will freeze the assets of 14 companies and 17 individuals suspected of the tech-support scams. The restraining orders should "essentially shut down their operations."

"So on one level it's like a bad Bollywood movie," Leibowitz said at a press conference Wednesday morning. "At another level, it's a rip-off of consumers we want to stop."

Leibowitz said consumers who believe they are receiving one of these calls should hang up and report the scam to the FTC.

That advice was reiterated by Frank Torres, director of consumer affairs and senior policy counsel for Microsoft, which is one of the companies scammers often pretend to be.

"Microsoft will never cold call a consumer and ask for their credit card information to charge them for a service they don't need," he said. 

You can hear an example of what these calls sound like below.

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