Alleged tech support scammers settle FTC charges

The companies allegedly charged customers to fix nonexistant computer problems

Operators of two alleged tech support scams that charged consumers hundreds of dollars to supposedly fix their computers have settled charges from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

Mikael Marczak, doing business as Virtual PC Solutions, and Sanjay Agarwalla were among the subjects of six complaints the FTC filed against alleged tech support scams last September.

Under settlements announced by the FTC Friday, the two are prohibited from marketing or selling any computer technical support service. Marczak and his company, Conquest Audit, also are prohibited from marketing or selling debt relief services, the FTC said in a press release. Neither of the men admitted wrongdoing under terms of the settlement.

The settlement with Agarwalla requires him to pay US$3,000, the amount of money he received in the alleged scam operation, the FTC said. The final order against Marczak and Conquest Audit includes a $984,721 judgment, the total amount of money lost by consumers in the scams, but the order is stayed due to their inability to pay, the agency said.

Marczak and Conquest Audit are required to surrender almost all of their existing assets.

The defendants posed as major computer security and manufacturing companies to deceive consumers into believing that their computers were riddled with viruses, spyware and other malware. The FTC alleged that they were not affiliated with major computer security or manufacturing companies and they had not detected viruses, spyware or other security issues on the consumers' computers.

Marczak operation cold-called customers and asked for $79 to $429 to fix nonexistent problems with their computers, the FTC said in its complaint. Agarwalla's operation used online ads to find customers, and charged them $139 to $360 to fix nonexistent computer problems, the FTC alleged.

An email seeking comment sent to PCCare247, a company associated with Agarwalla, was not returned. A lawyer for Marczak did not immediately return an email seeking comment on the settlement.

As part of the FTC's investigation into Marczak, the agency found he was also telemarketing a debt relief program the agency alleged to violating telemarketing sales rules. Consumers affected by the alleged debt-relief scams will receive notification of the FTC order as well as information about how to settle credit card debts.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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