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Two bogus technical support operations have been shut down over the past two days – but the punishment dished out highlights eyebrow-raising differences between the US and UK in how they deal with these scumbags.
On Monday, the US Federal Trade Commission reached a settlement with six people accused of running a technical support scam in Ohio, USA. Using a variety of shell companies, they allegedly placed pop-up adverts on websites that looked as though they came from a computer's operating system warning of a virus infection and telling the user to call a toll-free number for help.
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That was the only free part of the experience. Once a customer dialed in, they were encouraged to give remote access to their system to an "expert," who claimed to be an officially approved Microsoft or Apple technician qualified to work on their machine, the FTC alleged.
The support person would then run msconfig, and claim that all of the stopped Windows processes were evidence of a virus outbreak, the watchdog said. Alternatively, the simple dir /s command was used, and marks told that all the files listed were part of the virus, it is alleged.
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After lying about the presence of malware, the scammers then offered to sell a one-off fix or a longer-term support contract that could cost $500, it is claimed. If the victim wasn't interested, their system would sometimes be locked by the "technician" using the syskey application, who would then use this as further evidence of an infection, the regulator said.
After an investigation, charges were filed [PDF] in 2017 against six people and a bunch of businesses accused of running the scam, and the case was eventually settled out of court this week. The group agreed not to offer technical support in the future, and the FTC made them cough up...
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