In a rather worrying revelation, a report by Ars Technica has highlighted the menace of scareware scammers who have managed to dupe several unsuspecting victims of their money and the security of their systems. According to this report, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has shared that these scareware scammers have managed to use the telephone to successfully trick users into giving them remote access onto their systems. Explaining their modus operandi, the report highlighted that these scareware scammers called users and claimed to be from Microsoft, Dell, and McAfee. What they did from there on was trick users into believing that their systems had become victims of serious infection. They then charged users anywhere between $49 and $450 to “fix” their computers.

Cleaning out the infestation

FTC highlights the dangers lurking

Reportedly, Leibowitz announced at a press conference that scareware scammers had managed to dupe at least 2,400 people—and probably more. Such scams, it believes, have cost consumers tens of millions of dollars worldwide.

More worryingly, though, it has emerged that these scammers duped users by telling them that they received an automatic notification from the user's computer about a problem. “They used Voice over Internet Protocols to seem like they were calling from numbers in the consumer's country, sometimes in the same area code. They told their potential victims to go to their computer, look at a file that shows warning messages—actually these warning messages are just a standard part of the Windows operating system. The messages do not mean the computers are affected with viruses or any other malware,” added FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. 

Importantly, the report adds that such “warning messages” came from the Windows Event Viewer, showing standard messages about the computer's operation. Quoting Microsoft here, the report adds that while an error denoted a “significant problem”, eg: loss of data, a warning denoted something that “is not necessarily significant, but might indicate a possible future problem”. “Scammers allegedly lied to consumers, saying the messages meant hackers were in their computers, and even that their computers might 'blow up',” shared the report further. 

Going further, the report adds that the accused have been charged with “violating the FTC Act, which bars unfair and deceptive commercial practices, as well as the Telemarketing Sales Rule and with illegally calling numbers on the Do Not Call Registry,”  the report quoted FTC as saying. 

Importantly, Microsoft and other computer companies helped the FTC in its investigation and so did authorities in Australia, Canada and the UK. 

The names of the corporate defendants charged by the FTC include India-based Pecon Software, Finmaestros LLC, Zeal IT Solutions, Virtual PC Solutions, Lakshmi Infosoul Services and PCCare247.

In fact, in the complaint against Pecon Software in India, the FTC has been quoted as saying that the scams have been going on since at least 2008. “The complaint also describes how the scam unfolds after the users have been tricked into thinking their computers are infected,” adds the report. 

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