The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in conjunction with the UK Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), has launched of a major crackdown on technology support scams that lure people into parting with cash to fix fake problems with their computers.
The scammers often target those in the US, UK, Ireland and other English-speaking nations. The FTC kicked off its campaign by securing a legal order to freeze the assets of six companies and 17 individuals allegedly involved in the scams.
The scammers call people claiming to be from major vendors such as Dell, Microsoft or McAfee and tell users their device is infected by instructing them to visit a standard utility page and convincing them this shows a problem.
They then demand a fee - typically between $49 and $450 - to "resolve" the issue. The FTC said the scams were now so pervasive that it had to take action.
"The tech support scam artists we are talking about today have taken scareware to a whole other level of virtual mayhem," said FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz.
"The FTC has been aggressive - and successful - in its pursuit of tech support scams," added Leibowitz.
However, the FTC noted that the criminals are using increasingly complex systems to avoid detection, including the use of different domains, phone number and ‘virtual' office addresses to have mail forwarded.
A Soca spokesperson confirmed that it, "assisted with intelligence-gathering and international liaison".
The FTC added that it was working alongside other nation's law agencies, including Soca and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) on the issue.
Companies such as Microsoft were also thanked for their involvement in the work to take on the scammers.
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