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04 October 2012, 17:25

Anti-scammer crackdown

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The Event Log Viewer
Zoom The Event Log Viewer - used by scammers to fool the unsuspecting user
The US Federal Trade Commission has joined forces with agencies from five other countries to crack down on a number of telephone scammers. The regulatory agency says it has charged 14 companies and 17 individuals in court. The defendants are being accused of lying to tens of thousands of computer users by telling them that their machines have been infected with malware. A US federal judge has already handed down provisional court orders in six cases and frozen the defendants' assets. According to the FTC, government agencies in Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and the UK helped with investigations and other steps.

The defendants are being accused of covering up their locations by setting up letterbox companies and using 80 different domains and 130 telephone numbers. They are said to have passed themselves off as calling on behalf of well-known companies like Microsoft, Dell and McAfee, offering to go through Windows users' operating system event log via telephone. Based on normal errors and warnings in the log, the callers would tell users that their computers were infected with malware.

The scammers would then offer to fix the supposed infection in exchange for anything from $50 to $450. Users could then download a software program that was supposed to remove the malware but instead gave the scammers remote access to the victims' computers, allowing them to install other programs. In other cases, a fraudulent company used Google Ads to display a phone number for, supposedly, an IT company's support department. Suspicious companies in India could not be directly accused, according to the FTC, but if they were using services from telecommunications companies in the US for their schemes, the companies have had those numbers blocked.

The Australia Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) reports that thousands of telephone customers who had registered for the "Do not call" list have complained about such calls multiple times since 2009. The ACMA looked into the cases and passed the information on to the FTC. Australia was among the telephone scammers' first targets. The H first reported on the cold calling scam in March 2009 when UK Trading Standards agencies began to warn of the activity.


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