WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. regulators have charged 14 firms and 17 people with impersonating major companies to trick consumers into thinking their computers were plagued by viruses so they could charge hundreds of dollars to fix the problems.
The Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday the action was part of a new international crackdown on such tech-support scams. The agency says a federal judge in New York City has issued an order halting six alleged scams and freezing their assets.
The FTC says the telemarketing schemes mostly operate from India and target English-speaking consumers in the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand.
The agency says the telemarketers claimed they worked for companies such as Microsoft and Dell, saying they had detected a virus or malware. They offered to fix the problems remotely for $49 to $450.
The FTC alleged in lawsuits filed in New York that the companies and individuals violated a federal law prohibiting unfair and deceptive practices, and the agency's telemarketing sales rule. They also illegally called phone numbers listed on the Do Not Call Registry, the FTC said. It said the companies used 80 different computer domain names and 130 phone numbers to avoid detection by law enforcement authorities.
The agency is seeking unspecified restitution for the affected consumers.
The firms named in the suits are Pecon Software Ltd., Pecon Infotech Ltd., Pecon Software UK Ltd., PCCare247 Inc., PCCare247 Solutions Pvt Ltd., Connexxions Infotech Inc., Connexxions IT Services Pvt Ltd., Zeal IT Solutions Pvt Ltd., Lakshmi Infosoul Services Pvt Ltd., Finmaestros LLC, New World Services Inc., MegaBites Solutions LLC, Greybytes Cybertech P. Ltd. and Shine Solutions Private Ltd.
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Clickjackers on Facebook entice users to copy and paste text into their browser bar by posting too-good-to-be-true offers and eye-catching headlines. Once the user infects his own computer with the malicious code, the clickjackers can take control of his account, spam his friends and further spread their scam. For example, clickjacking schemes hit Facebook soon after bin Laden's death and spread like wildfire by purporting to offer users a glimpse at <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/04/bin-laden-death-video-hoax_n_857730.html" target="_hplink">video or photos of bin Laden's death</a>.
Fake Polls Or Questionnaires
If you click on an ad or a link that takes you to questionnaire on a site outside Facebook, it's best to close the page. When you complete a fake quiz, you help a scammer earn commission. Sometimes the quiz may ask you to enter your mobile number before you can view your results. If the scammers get your number, they could run up charges on your account.
Phishers go after your credentials (username, password and sometimes more), then take over your profile, and may attempt to gain access to your other online accounts. Phishing schemes can be difficult to spot, especially if the scammers have set up a page that resembles Facebook's login portal.
Phony Email Or Message
<a href="http://www.facebook.com/help/?page=1187" target="_hplink">Facebook warns</a> users to be on the lookout for emails or messages from scammers masquerading as "The Facebook Team" or "Facebook." These messages often suggest "urgent action" and may ask the user to update his account. They frequently contain links to malware sites or virus-ridden attachments. They may even ask for your username and password. The best advice Facebook offers is to report the sender and delete the messages without clicking anything.
Money Transfer Scam
If a friend sent you a desperate-sounding Facebook chat message or wall post asking for an emergency money transfer, you'd want to help, right? Naturally. That's what makes this scam so awful. The point is to get you to wire money to scammers via Western Union or another transfer service.
Fake Friend Request
Not all <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/10/facebook-friend-request-spam_n_821584.html?page=1" target="_hplink">friend requests</a> come from real people, despite Facebook's safeguards against bots. Some Facebook accounts exist purely to establish broad connections for spamming or extracting personal data from users, so watch out whose friend requests you accept.
Fake Page Spam
Malicious pages, groups or event invitations aim to trick the user into performing actions that Facebook considers "abusive." For instance, a fake invite might offer a prize if you forward it to all your friends or post spammy content on their walls. Sometimes a scammer will set up fake pages as a front for a clickjacking or phishing scheme.
Malicious apps are pretty common on Facebook these days. They can be a cover for phishing, malware, clickjacking or money transfer schemes. Oftentimes, the apps look convincingly real enough for users to click "Allow," as they would do with a normal Facebook app. However, rogue apps use this permission to spread spam through your network of friends. For example, the recent "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/08/facebook-closing-accounts-scam-app_n_846737.html" target="_hplink">Facebook Shutdown</a>" scam spread by claiming that Facebook would delete all inactive accounts except those that confirmed via app installation.
The Koobface Worm
The <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koobface" target="_hplink">Koobface worm</a> is getting on in years (it first appeared in late 2008) and has been mostly scrubbed from the site, but Facebook still warns users to look out for it. Koobface spreads across social networks like Facebook via posts containing a link that claims to be an Adobe Flash Player update. Really, the link downloads malware that will infect your computer, hijack your Facebook profile and spam all your friends with its malicious download link. This worm affects mostly Windows users.