Fraudsters used pop-up ads to trick consumers into buying unnecessary tech support services

As part of its ongoing crackdown against tech support scams, the Federal Trade Commission has obtained settlements with a group of St. Louis-based defendants who used deceptive Internet pop-up ads to trick consumers into buying unnecessary technical support services.

In a complaint filed in October 2016, the FTC alleged that the defendants worked with affiliate marketers to place pop-up ads falsely claiming that a consumer’s computer was infected and that the ads originated from legitimate technology companies like Apple or Microsoft. The ads included dire warnings and urged consumers to immediately call a toll-free number for help. When consumers called the number, they were connected to telemarketers based in India who falsely claimed to be affiliated with Microsoft or Apple. The telemarketers claimed they needed remote access to consumers’ computers in order to diagnose the problem. Once given access, the telemarketers showed consumers innocuous screens and directories on the computers, deceiving consumers into believing that these were evidence of problems that required immediate repair.

The settlement is part of the FTC’s ongoing efforts to pursue tech support scams. The Commission last month announced Operation Tech Trap, a major crackdown on tech support operators who used many of the same tactics as the defendants in this case.

“When tech support scams pop up, the FTC will take action,” said Tom Pahl, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Today’s settlements, along with the agency’s recent Operation Tech Trap actions, underscore the FTC’s commitment to protecting consumers from tech support scams.”

As part of the settlements, the defendants are banned from marketing or promoting any technical support products or services in the future and from misrepresenting any product or service. In addition, the defendants agreed to turn over assets valued at more than $1 million to the FTC, which will be used to provide restitution to victims.

The defendants are Global Access Technical Support, LLC (also doing business as Global SConnect, Yubdata Tech and Technolive); Source Pundit LLC (also doing business as OneSource Tech Support); Helios Digital Media LLC; Rajiv Chhatwal; Rupinder Kaur; and Harinder Singh.

The Commission vote approving the stipulated final orders was 2-0. The stipulated final orders were entered by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

NOTE: Stipulated final orders or injunctions, etc. have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.