Attorney General Ferguson files against tech support provider scam

Monday, December 21, 2015

Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced a lawsuit against one of the biggest independent tech support providers in the world, iYogi, and its President, Vishal Dhar, to stop a scam that uses deception and scare tactics to pressure consumers into buying unnecessary tech support services.

The lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, alleges iYogi’s tactics are unfair and deceptive business practices that violate Washington’s Consumer Protection Act. The lawsuit also alleges iYogi induced consumers to install unnecessary software as part of its ploy to coerce them into buying tech support services, a violation of Washington’s Computer Spyware Act.

The state seeks to stop these illegal business practices and recover money for Washington victims. The total number of Washingtonians affected will be identified during the lawsuit, but is estimated to be in the hundreds, if not thousands. The state may seek 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.

“Tech support scams defraud consumers and often trade on the good reputations of legitimate businesses,” said Ferguson. “This lawsuit sends a message to tech support scammers that my office will hold them accountable.”

Tech support scams are a national problem with local ramifications. According to Microsoft, an estimated 71,000 Washingtonians lose $33 million each year to these schemes. Nationwide, an estimated 3.3 million Americans suffer $1.5 billion in annual losses from tech support scams.

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s President and Chief Legal Officer said “Over the past 18 months alone, Microsoft has received more than 180,000 customer calls regarding tech support fraud. Today’s announcement is an important step toward addressing this issue, which disproportionately affects the most vulnerable segments of our society.”

According to AARP State Director Doug Shadel, tech support scams can disproportionately affect older adults.

“Despite emerging years ago, the tech support scam continues to plague consumers around the nation, generating more reports to the AARP Foundation Fraud Fighter Call Center here in Seattle (800-646-2283) than any scheme except maybe the IRS Imposter Scam,” says Shadel.

“The bottom line is that manufacturers of computers DO NOT make phone calls or send ads to individual customers about problems with their machines. The best ‘fix’ for this problem is to simply hang up or contact your service provider independently with questions.”

The Attorney General’s Office offers the following tips to avoid tech support scams:
  • Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you can confirm it is a legitimate representative from a company where you’re already a customer
  • Ask if there is a fee or subscription associated with the “service.” If there is, hang up
  • Do not provide Social Security numbers, banking, or credit card or other financial information
  • Protect personal computers with legitimate and updated security software. Victim of a tech support scam? Contact the Attorney General’s Office.

If you believe you are a victim of the iYogi scam, or any other tech support scam, file a consumer complaint with the Attorney General’s Office.

For additional Internet safety tips, advice and information visit the Attorney General's website, here.


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