Washington State Attorney General, Bob Ferguson, announced recently that the state would sue iYogi, one of the world's largest computer technical support services companies. The AG charged iYogi with selling unsuspecting computer owners unnecessary technical support services.
Hello, this is Microsoft Technical Support Services Calling...
The first wave of calls came from "Card Services", purportedly your credit card company inquiring about how it could save you even more money by lowering your interest rates. Soon thereafter the "Microsoft Technical Support Services" appeared. Foreign sounding operators would call to inform a consumer that his or her computer had set off a remote monitor (such as "Windows Server" at Microsoft) and may have a virus which needs to be removed. After showing an unsuspecting person dangerous sounding file names in the Windows registry or elsewhere that are actually harmless, the phony tech support company is able to upsell a technical support package.
Several years ago, computer security and antivirus expert Avast had partnered with iYogi to manage its technical support services. Former Washington Post reporter, Brian Krebs, investigated an unusual message left by Avast on its company blog. The post warned Avast customers not to fall victim to telephone based technical support scams since the company never phones customers except if the customer requests a call. Krebs experienced an iYogi technical support engineer finding spyware issues in a brand new install of Windows. He was informed that $170 support package would solve his problems.
How the Technical Support Scam Works
iYogi, located in Gurgaon, India, is also incorporated in the United States and focuses on serving the more lucrative American market. It employs over 6,000 persons its global technology staff.
The attorney general confirmed Krebs' experience with iYogi representatives such as:
The attorney general charged iYogi with violating the Washington Consumer Protection Act and Computer Spyware Act. iYogi could be liable for up to $2,000 in civil penalties for each violation of the Consumer Protection Act and $100,000 per violation of the Computer Spyware Act. While the AG did not place an exact figure on the number of persons affected, Microsoft's estimates exceeded 71,000 victims in Washington State alone.
- claiming associations with Microsoft, Apple and Hewlett Packard;
- claiming to provide tech support services on behalf of whichever company the consumer inquires about;
- identifying some complex looking files and claim that they are malicious and need to be removed - in spite of the files being harmless;
- alarming the customer with false information and then presenting several iYogi tech support plans to consumers ranging from $140 to $379;
- upselling antivirus software for the computer, even when similar software has been already installed; and
- convincing the customer to buy an upgrade to Windows 10 for $80 - even though this upgrade is actually a free upgrade directly from Microsoft.
A Need for a More Aggressive Prosecution of Fraud
The Windows tech support scam has existed for many years without prosecution. In addition to Krebs and Avast, Infoworld also confirmed the same fraudulent activities surrounding iYogi as far back as March 2012. It is ironic that the Better Business Bureau of New York has iYogi as an A rated company - in spite of 393 complains closed with the BBB just in the past 3 years. Without more stringent laws with heavy fines, online fraudsters may operate with the perspective that prosecution is merely a cost of doing business.
- Legal Practice:
- Computers - Computer Fraud