In testimony before Congress today, the Federal Trade Commission described its work to fight tech support scammers who trick people into believing their computer has problems, and then charge them hundreds of dollars for unnecessary, worthless, or even harmful services. The testimony outlined aggressive FTC law enforcement, including work with officials in other countries, and the agency’s efforts to educate consumers.
Testifying on behalf of the Commission before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, Lois Greisman, Associate Director of the FTC’s Division of Marketing Practices, said that, based on consumer complaints to the FTC, these imposter scams appear to disproportionately affect seniors – of the more than 18,000 tech support complainants to the FTC who reported their age during the first eight months of 2015, 76 percent were at least 50 years old, and 56 percent were more than 60 years old.
According to the testimony, however, many consumers never file complaints. As FTC cases have shown, many consumers’ computers may run smoothly after they pay for the scammers’ unnecessary services, and consumers may not realize that they did not need the services they purchased.
In 2012, the FTC launched an international crackdown that halted six tech support scams based mainly in India, the testimony notes. Last year, the agency brought actions against operations that bilked more than $100 million from thousands of consumers, and sponsored a meeting in New Delhi for international authorities to develop a long-term strategy to combat these and other forms of telemarketing fraud originating in India. A follow-up conference in New Delhi last month focused on using banking data to identify scammers, improving information sharing about lawbreakers, and helping Indian officials investigate scams.
The FTC has developed relationships with public and private sector partners in India to help fight tech support scams at their source. The agency also has laid the foundation to encourage and assist Indian law enforcement in taking action against Indian telemarketing fraudsters, according to the testimony, which also noted the FTC’s work with its law enforcement partners in Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
The Commission vote approving the testimony and its inclusion in the formal record was 4-0.
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