|July 8, 2016
Contact: Whitney Ray
Phone: (850) 245-0150
|en Español||Print Version||Tweet|
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Federal Trade Commission today announced that a federal court has temporarily shut down an international tech support operation bilking consumers out of millions of dollars. According to the investigation, the scam attempted to scare consumers into believing their computers were compromised by malware or hackers, and then company representatives pretending to be certified by or affiliated with Microsoft and Apple offered to fix the problem for a fee. The court order temporarily shut down the defendants’ operation, froze the defendants’ assets and placed control of those assets with a court-appointed receiver. The complaint filed jointly by Attorney General Bondi’s Office and the FTC alleges that defendants based in Florida, Iowa, Nevada and Canada relied on a combination of deceptive online ads and misleading, high-pressure sales tactics to frighten consumers into spending hundreds of dollars for dubious computer repairs and antivirus software.
According to the complaint, the defendants caused consumers’ computers to display advertisements sometimes designed to resemble security alerts from Microsoft or Apple. These ads warned consumers that their computers may be infected with malware and urged them to call a toll-free number to safeguard both their computer and sensitive personal information stored on it. Consumers who called the numbers in these ads were routed to the defendants’ call center in Boynton Beach, where telemarketers purported to run a series of diagnostics tests that inevitably discovered the existence of grave problems that the call operator claimed must be immediately fixed at a cost of $200 to $300.
The defendants also frequently told consumers that they needed to spend an additional $200 to $500 to replace their existing antivirus software, which the defendants always claimed to be outdated and ineffective. According to the complaint, consumers can acquire this software for a fraction of the cost charged by the defendants. In many instances, the software the defendants sold to consumers with Apple computers is available as a free download.
The defendants in the case include Big Dog Solutions LLC, doing business as Help Desk National and Help Desk Global; PC Help Desk US LLC, doing business as Help Desk National and Help Desk Global; Inbound Call Specialist LLC; BlackOpteck CE, Inc.; 9138242 Canada Corporation; Digital Growth Properties, LLC; Christopher J. Costanza, doing business as CJM Consulting, LLC; Muzaffar Abbas; Donald Dolphin; Suzanne W. Harris; Gary Oberman; and Justin Powers.
The defendants are charged with violations of the FTC Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule and the Florida Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
To view the court order, click here.
To view the complaint filed, click here.
Anyone who suspects unfair or deceptive business practices can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office online at MyFloridaLegal.com or in-state via phone at 1-866-9NO-SCAM.
For consumer education materials about tech support scams, click here.