Last week, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody announced she was joining the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other states to crack down on tech support scams.
Moody announced the Consumer Protection Division “took action in three separate cases to shutdown tech support scams operating in Florida—with the latest court action filed today during National Consumer Protection Week.”
“Tech support scams prey on people’s fear and insecurity about technology to trick them into paying for repairs and services they do not need. These fraudsters often contact seniors hoping their inexperience with technology will make them easy targets. Our Consumer Protection Division is actively identifying, investigating and taking these unscrupulous fraudsters to court,” Moody said.
The Attorney General’s office showcased it action against American PC Corporation, which is based in Sunrise, accusing that company of “deceiving consumers into purchasing unnecessary computer services and products” and accusing owner Raju Sharma of convincing “consumers to pay up to $1,700 upfront for remote tech support services or software products using misleading and deceptive tactics.”
“The complaint alleges that the defendants cold called consumers and misrepresented that the consumers’ computers were in imminent danger of a virus or hacker attack. In some instances, the defendants also allegedly falsely claimed affiliation with well-known American technology companies, such as Microsoft. Defendants then launched into a deceptive sales pitch that began with American PC remotely accessing consumers’ computers, performing a phony diagnostic test and then falsely detecting viruses, malware or other security threats. Defendants allegedly used these deceptive tactics to persuade consumers to pay upfront for the services and if a consumer declined to purchase the service or software, American PC allegedly employed high-pressure sales tactics, such as repeated cold calls and threats of computer hijacking,” Moody’s office noted.
“American PC and Sharma are alleged in the complaint to have violated the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, the Florida Telemarketing Act, and the Telemarketing Sales Rule. Attorney General Moody is seeking a permanent injunction banning the defendants from selling tech support products and services, along with refunds for victimized consumers,” Moody’s office added.
Moody also noted her efforts against three other tech scams: “a federal court order of summary judgment on liability entered in January against the defendants in ongoing litigation filed jointly with the FTC against Vylah Tec LLC and others; a final judgment entered againsto,Paul Cozzolino a defendant in the Florida Attorney General’s litigation against Fast Fix 123 filed in Palm Beach County; and a consent final judgment entered this month against defendant Dennis Rinker in the Fast Fix 123 litigation.”
The Attorney General’s office offered some tips for Floridians.
“If someone receives a pop-up ad, call, spam email or any other urgent message about a computer virus or malware they should abide by these tips,” Moody’s office noted. “Never click on any links or call the phone number provided; do not send money, credit card numbers or any other financial information; never give anyone control of a personal computer; be aware that Microsoft does not display pop-up warnings and ask consumers to call a toll-free number about viruses or security problems; and avoid going online without up-to-date security software.