US court shuts down 'scammers posing as Microsoft, Facebook support staff'

Netizens allegedly duped into paying for bogus tech advice

The US Federal Trade Commission has shuttered a New York-based tech support business, after scammers allegedly hoodwinked Facebook and Microsoft users into paying hundreds of dollars for tech advice from Pairsys Inc.

According to court documents (PDF) filed by the consumer protection agency, the firm was accused of violating the FTC's rules on unfair or deceptive acts and misrepresentations or deceptive omissions in relation to commerce.

It was claimed that Pairsys tricked consumers into believing that they had security or performance issues with their computers, such as viruses, spyware or system errors. The company apparently duped computer users with cold calls and misleading ads.

All of which amounted to deception, the FTC alleged. The agency's Jessica Rich added:

“The defendants behind Pairsys (Uttam Saha and Tiya Bhattacharya) 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.

“We are pleased that the court has shut down the company for now, and we look forward to getting consumers’ money back in their pockets.”

The FTC said that folk were told to pay between $149 and $249 for bogus warranty programs and software that was freely available online. It added that, in some cases, the defendants demanded $600 from the consumers they had fooled.

It was alleged that Pairsys made nearly $2.5m from the scams since the start of 2012. The FTC hopes to see the company put out of business permanently.

The agency said:

The defendants have agreed to the terms of a preliminary injunction issued by the court that prohibits the defendants in the case from making misrepresentations to consumers about what company they represent or whether consumers have viruses or spyware on their computer.

They are also banned from deceptive telemarketing practices, and may not sell or rent their customer lists to any third party. The injunction requires that their websites and telephone numbers must be shut down and disconnected, and their assets be frozen.


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