Court pulls plug on multimillion dollar fake Microsoft support operation

A US court has granted an injunction on an alleged tech support scam and frozen the company's assets ahead of a trial.

A US federal district court has ordered the shut down of a tech support operation said to have deceptively earned $2.5m from consumers.

A New York federal court on Friday ordered the shutdown of telemarketing firm incorporated in the state, accused by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of selling bogus software and support under false claims that consumers' PCs were loaded with viruses, spyware, and system errors.

The injunction was granted in the absence of the accused company and its chief operators ahead of a trial to be decided by a court at a later date. The court on Friday also ordered a freeze on the defendants' assets to ensure restitution funds are available in the event the FTC wins its case.

According to the FTC's complaint, the company had made $2.5m since early 2012 by cold calling targets and selling bogus warranty and software programs at a cost of $149 to $249, though some targets were charged up to $600.

 The company "targeted seniors and other vulnerable populations, preying on their lack of computer knowledge to sell 'security' software and programs that had no value at all," said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection in a statement.

The FTC accused the telemarking company of falsely claiming they were calling on behalf of Microsoft and Facebook.

Like other phone support scams the FTC shut down in 2012, the company's alleged methods involved either scaring consumers into believing there was a threat on their computer or persuading them to install remote access software.

After remote access had been granted, the defendants pointed victims to a supposed "error" with "rundll32.exe found network firewall crashed" — a common ruse used in tech support scams . They would then charge consumers for remedying a problem that never actually existed.

The company has been accused of violating the FTC Act, which prohibits "unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce". The Act also interprets misrepresentations or deceptive omissions as deceptive acts.

Complaints emerged on Microsoft's user forums shortly before the FTC announced its international crackdown on tech support scams  in 2012.