Tech support scams in which consumers are tricked by scammers into believing there is a problem with their computers that require the expensive services of the scammers is a major problem. Tech support scams are increasingly common and victimize consumers 60 years or older about five times more than people between the ages of 20 and 59 according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In February of 2019 I reported to you that the FTC obtained a temporary restraining order against Elite IT Partners, Inc and its principal James Martinos, shutting down the company, which the FTC alleged used deceptive tactics to gain access to consumers’ computers and then sell them expensive repair and other services that were totally unnecessary. Most of the victims of this scam were older consumers.
According to the FTC, Elite used Internet ads targeted at consumers who were looking for email password recovery assistance and lured them into providing their names, email addresses and phone numbers to Elite IT Partners, Inc. Elite’s telemarketers then contacted the consumers posing as well-known companies such as AOL or Yahoo and told the consumers that their computer problems were most likely as a result of their computers being infected with a virus. The telemarketers would then convince the consumers to provide access to their computers to Elite who would then run diagnostic tests. These diagnostic tests were totally bogus and always resulted in the consumer being told that he or she needed computer repair as well as antivirus software and services that Elite would provide at a high cost. The FTC further alleged that Elite also charged for additional monthly services that it did not disclose.
In December of 2019 the FTC, Elite IT Partners Inc. and James Martinos reached a settlement of the charges. Under the terms of the settlement, Elite IT Partners Inc. and Martinos were permanently banned from offering or marketing tech support services in the future. A 13.5 million dollar judgment was also imposed, but it was suspended following the payment by Martinos of $173,500 and the turning over to the FTC of other assets. The judgment was suspended because the determination was made that Elite IF Partners Inc. and Martinos did not have the ability to pay the full amount of the judgment. However, according to the terms of the settlement, if it is later determined that Elite and Martinos misrepresented their assets, payment of the full amount of the judgment would be imposed.
Now scammers posing as employees of the new defunct Elite IT are calling people and offering refunds that they say are related to the FTC settlement. They then attempt to lure their victims into giving them remote access to their victims’ computers. There is no refund program presently being offered to the victims of Elite IT and you should never give remote access to your computer to anyone under these circumstances. With remote access to your computer, the scammers can perpetrate a wide variety of scams and identity theft schemes.
Providing remote access to anyone to your computer can lead to a myriad of problems including identity theft and the downloading of ransomware. Neither AOL, Yahoo, Apple, Microsoft or any of the other tech companies ever ask for remote access to your computer to fix problems. The most common tech support scams start with popups on your computer that provide notices of security problems that contain telephone numbers for you to call to fix the problem, Whenever you get a pop-up, email, or text message that appears to tell you that you have a security problem with your computer, you should never click on any links contained in the message or call the telephone number provided. If your screen freezes, all you need to do is just turn off your computer and restart it. If you are concerned that you may be experiencing a real security problem you can contact tech support at the real tech companies directly by phone or by email using the phone number and email addresses you find on their respective websites.
Remember, whenever you get a phone call, you can never be sure who is really calling you. Scammers can “spoof” a call to you by which they trick your Caller ID to make it appear as if the call is legitimate. Never give personal information or certainly remote access to your computer to someone who calls you unless you have absolutely confirmed that the call is legitimate and there is a need for your response. The better course is to hang up and confirm whether or not the call is legitimate. Most of the time you will find it was not.
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