Two groups of companies accused of raking in $120m from fake antivirus scams have been put on ice by a court.
The Florida-based businesses distributed free software that scanned computers for malware or performance issues. That software would then make bogus or misleading claims that the machines were infected or broken, urging marks to buy a "full" package to repair the damage, US watchdog the FTC claims.
Anyone who bought the full antivirus application would be told by the software to call a toll-free number to activate it – but users would end up on the line to a high-pressure sales team who would bully victims into ordering repairs and other stuff they did not need, the FTC added.
Today the State of Florida and the FTC announced they have won temporary restraining orders against the companies after alleging in court documents that Americans were pressured into purchasing software they did not need.
As much as $120m has been banked from the scam since 2012, it's claimed. The operations taken to court in the southern district of Florida were grouped into two lots:
- Software distributers 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 [PDF].
- Software distributers 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 [PDF].
"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," FTC consumer protection bureau director Jessica Rich said in announcing the legal win.
"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."
The restraining orders temporarily bar both groups of companies from doing business while the FTC and State of Florida pursue legal action. ®