FTC wins settlement from bogus tech support operators

Maybe you’ve gotten one of these calls before: Someone calls out of the blue, claiming your computer is riddled with viruses and wanting to “fix” it remotely. The caller uses technical jargon that may or may not sound convincing, depending on how much you know about computers. I had one of those a few years ago. I figured out the caller was trying to pull the wool over my eyes and hung up, but scammers like that have managed to rip off a lot of consumers with a bit less tech savvy.

Thanks to the Federal Trade Commission for shutting down one such operation. The FTC got two operators of a fake tech support scam to settle complaints and give up the money they made with the scheme.

Mikael Marczak of Virtual PC Solutions and Sanjay Agarwalla were among those charged in a series of six FTC complaints filed last September to protect consumers from online scams. The defendants reportedly pretended to be with major computer security and manufacturing companies in an effort to convince consumers their computers were infected with various malware.

In fact, they were not with those companies and had not detected anything about the consumers’ computers. Yet the defendants charged hundreds of dollars to remotely access and “repair” the computers.

In addition to the tech support scheme, FTC staff found that Marczak was telemarketing a debt relief program the FTC claimed violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule.

The final orders against Agarwalla and Marczak and Conquest Audit, prohibit Agarwalla and Marczak from “advertising, marketing, promoting, offering for sale or selling any computer security or computer related technical support service” and from assisting others in doing so. The orders also prohibit Marczak and Conquest Audit from marketing or selling debt relief services.

Agarwalla is required to pay $3,000 for the funds he received from the alleged scam operation. Marczak and Conquest Audit must pay $984,721, the total amount of money lost by consumers in the scams. According to the FTC, Marczak and Conquest Audit will not be able to pay the full amount, but will surrender almost all existing assets. Consumers affected by the debt-relief scams will also be notified of the order and will receive FTC information about how to settle credit card debts.

Litigation continues against the remaining defendants in each of the FTC actions.