A federal court has temporarily shut down and frozen the assets of two telemarketing operations accused by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of scamming customers out of more than $120 million by deceptively marketing computer software and tech support services.
The court order places the companies' assets under the control of a court-appointed receiver. According to complaints filed by the FTC, since at least 2012, the defendants used software designed to trick consumers into believing there were problems with their computers and then hit them with sales pitches for tech support products and services to fix their machines.
As part of the legal maneuver, the state of Florida joined the FTC in filing two separate cases against companies who allegedly sold the bogus software and the telemarketers who sold the unnecessary tech support services. In the first case, the defendants selling software include PC Cleaner Inc.; Netcom3 Global Inc.; Netcom3 Inc., also doing business as Netcom3 Software Inc.; and Cashier Myricks, Jr. The telemarketing defendants include Inbound Call Experts LLC; Advanced Tech Supportco. LLC; PC Vitalware LLC; Super PC Support LLC; Robert D. Deignan; Paul M. Herdsman; and Justin M. Wright.
In the second case, the defendants selling software include Boost Software Inc. and Amit Mehta, and the telemarketing defendants include Vast Tech Support LLC, also doing business as OMG Tech Help, OMG Total Protection, OMG Back Up, downloadsoftware.com, and softwaresupport.com; OMG Tech Help LLC; Success Capital LLC; Jon Paul Holdings LLC; Elliot Loewenstern; Jon-Paul Vasta; and Mark Donahue.
According to the FTC, the scams began with computer software that claimed to improve the security or performance of the customer's computer. Typically, consumers downloaded a free, trial version of the software that would run a computer system scan. The scan always identified numerous errors, whether they existed or not. Consumers were then told that in order to fix the problems they had to purchase the paid version of the software for between $29 and $49.
In order to activate the software after the purchase, consumers were then directed to call a toll-free number and connected to telemarketers who tried to sell them unneeded computer repair services and software, according to the FTC complaint. The services could cost as much as $500, the FTC stated.
"These operations prey on consumers’ lack of technical knowledge with deceptive pitches and high-pressure tactics to sell useless software and services to the tune of millions of dollars," said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement. "There’s no excuse for it, and we are pleased the court has taken steps to temporarily shut down these scams while our lawsuit proceeds."