Future Tense

Phony Tech Support Companies Swindled Customers Out of $120 Million, Says FTC

We’ve all had tech problems … but normally we’re not being ripped off at the same time.

Photo from Djomas/Shutterstock

On Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission shuttered two telemarketing companies for offering fraudulent tech support services to customers. An operation that used the names Boost Software Inc. and OMG Tech Help, as well as a developer that made “PC Cleaner” software, are both facing FTC scrutiny for allegedly collecting a combined $120 million from customers without providing the services they promised.

Both groups are based in Florida and are structured as telemarketing firms. As the Washington Post reports, they might scam unsuspecting computer users by calling them, suggesting that their computers have viruses, and proposing a software cure—which at worst is malware and at best is benign bloatware. The money comes in when the company tells the user to pay between $29 and $49 to activate the supposed anti-virus software.

The FTC has been steadily combating these types of scams. In addition to the shutdowns in Florida, the agency went after similar operations throughout the summer and one that was New York-based at the end of October. Jessica Rich, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement:

These operations prey on consumers’ lack of technical knowledge with deceptive pitches and high-pressure tactics to sell useless software and services to the tune of millions of dollars … There’s no excuse for it, and we are pleased the court has taken steps to temporarily shut down these scams while our lawsuit proceeds.

The scams are a good reminder that tech support isn’t just a general customer service, but actually a specialized field that requires knowledge of, you know, technology. As a former employee of one of the Florida operations told the Palm Beach Post, “Nobody who answers the phone is a technician; they’re all salesmen.”