Monday, May 19, 2014

Anatomy of a tech-support scam

I remember years ago, some friends contacted me concerned about the "Teddy Bear virus." According to this hoax email that was going around, if your computer had the virus, there would be icon of teddy bear in your system folder. The file was Java Debug Manager used by Windows. I would respond to their e-mails an politely suggest that they forward my comments to everyone they had contacted.

If you're inexperienced with computers, the system folder can be a scary place. If you haven't seen the Windows Event Viewer before, it's kinda scary. If you've seen it a lot, you now that most of the "errors" it reports are trivial. The India-based computer support firm PCCare247 would remote in to customers'  computers and show them Event Viewer. They charged people large amounts of money for dealing with non-existent problems on their computer, until they were stopped by the FTC.

Ars Technica reports on the FTC investigation, in which their "customer" was an FTC investigator. Yakeen, a PCCare247 employee. told Sheryl Novick
“Your computer is hacked by someone,” he said. “They are using your name and your ID, your computer to do some cyber fraud and cyber terrorism.”
 This wasn't exactly true, or as Ars Technica's Nate Anderson put it, "a brazen lie." Although, if you think about it, when Yakeen told Novick
I’m 100 percent sure and I strongly believe that you have some hacking issue working in your computer
he may have been talking about himself. There he was, using remote access to gain control of Novick's computer as he attempted to scam her out of hundreds of dollars. The initial price he quoted for cleaning the computer and
remove all the hackers, remove all the errors and 509 virus from the computer and recover all the data, okay?
was $400, though Novick was about to negotiate this down to a special offer for only $300.

The FTC had received a number of complaints about the firm. From the evidence they obtained, the FTC was able to get a temporary restraining order against PCCare247.

Part of the problem here, of course, is as computers have become ubiquitous, you have more people who have little or no idea how they work using them. In a way, that's a good thing. It's not like I can make any meaningful repairs to my car. Why should you expect to be servicing your computer any more than you would service your own tv?

The tv repair equivalent of PCCare247 would be someone who tuned your tv to a nonexistent station ("you see static there, that's very, very bad") and then charged you a lot of money to put it back to an actual station.

The FTC is continuing its case against PCCare247, however, the firm's US lawyers have withdrawn because the they
have criticized counsels’ performance and disagree with counsels’ strategic and tactical advice in this litigation
and they've stopped paying their legal fees.
You can follow my blog on Twitter (@impofthediverse) or on Facebook. If you like this post, share it with your friends. If you have a comment just for me, e-mail me at
This blog runs solely on ego! Follow this blog! Comment on this post! Let me know that you want to read more of it!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...