FTC Shuts Down Telemarketing Company for Deceptive Business Practices
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the independent U.S. agency with the principal mission of promoting the protection of consumers from unfair, illegal and/or deceptive business practices. Recently, the FTC, in conjunction with the State of Florida, obtained a court order to freeze the assets and shut down the telemarketing operations of various companies who are accused of using deceptive business practices to sell over $120 million in computer software and technical support services. The use of an assortment of company names and softwares was utilized to trick consumers into believing that their computers had errors and bugs that needed repairs. From there, the consumers were directed by the companies to support services that were marketed via “high-pressure deceptive sales pitches” in order to induce consumers to purchase products that their computers did not need. The FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection is seeking restitution for the victims of the scam, as well as disgorgement of profits that were received as a result of the consumer fraud.
The Florida Telemarketing Scheme
The companies being investigated by the FTC and the State of Florida operated under an assortment of names including OMG Tech Help, Boost Software, PC Vitalware, Vast Tech Support and Advanced Tech Support. According to the papers the FTC filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, this relatively advanced scam was “designed to falsely identify problems on consumers’ computers, exaggerate minor issues and otherwise deceive consumers into thinking that their computers are significantly compromised.” Consumers would inadvertently wander into the scam when they received search results tied to common computer issue terms or when consumers clicked on pop-up advertisements. These advertisements offered free software that falsely purported to perform computer system scans in order to locate malicious malware and other dangerous and corrupted computer files.
In one variation of the scam, the company PC Cleaner Pro scanned computers in order to determine whether the computer system was capable of blocking 926 different types of malware. However, this set of 926 separate malwares dated back to as early as 2004, and had not been considered active threats for years, and thus the ability to block such malware was a moot point. In fact, Microsoft, the computer software company, had fixed the problems associated with the malware so long ago that these types of malware are no longer included in the pre-installed Windows Defender anti-malware blocking program that Microsoft put on its products. This fact, ultimately, is how the non-dangerous malware was still being identified as a problem on almost any computer that used the PC Cleaner Pro software. Once the non-dangerous malware was identified, the Pro Cleaner Pro program provided consumers with the opportunity to fix the supposed malware issues on their computer by purchasing the $29.99 paid version of the PC Pro Cleaner software. Following the purchase, the consumers were required to call a toll-free phone number in order to activate the software. During such phone calls the consumers were cornered by the company’s high-pressure sales tactics intended to induce consumers to purchase additional computer services.
From 2011 to 2013 it is believed that PC Cleaner Pro was downloaded by consumers over 450,000 times. This particular scam is one of many different deceptive practices used by the telemarketing companies being investigated by the FTC and the State of Florida. Those facing charges such as this should get in touch with an attorney immediately. If you need legal representation in a federal white collar suit, contact Jeffrey S. Weiner P.A. in South Florida today.