The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recently charged the operators of Global Access Technical Support, a multi-national tech support company, with the use of deceptive pop-up internet ads to scare consumers into paying for unnecessary technical support services.
A federal court has issued an order to temporarily stop these practices, and freeze the company’s assets.
The FTC complaint alleges that the defendants used affiliate marketers to place internet pop-up ads designed to deceive consumers into thinking the ads originated from legitimate technology companies like Apple or Microsoft to warn the consumer that their computer was infected with viruses or malware. The ads included loud alarms or recorded messages warning of the apparent dire threat to consumers’ computers and “hijacked” consumers’ browsers, leaving consumers unable to navigate around the ads or close them without contacting the toll-free number featured on the pop-up.
Furthermore, the complaint states that once consumers acted upon the toll-free number, they were connected to a call center in India and pitched by telemarketers who claimed to be affiliated with or certified by a major technology company. Consumers were told that in order to diagnose their problem, they must provide the telemarketer remote access to their computer. The telemarketers then showed consumers otherwise innocuous screens and directories on their computers, deceiving them into believing they were evidence of problems that require technical support services to repair.
The complaint alleges that, overall, the telemarketers pressured consumers to spend anywhere from $200 to $400 for repair services that could take hours to complete and which were at best useless, and in some cases could actually harm consumers’ computers.