The operators of an alleged tech support scam agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they tricked consumers into paying millions of dollars for technical support services they did not need and software that was otherwise free.
Under the settlement, Pairsys, Inc., and its owners, Tiya Bhattachara and Uttam Saha, are required to turn over multiple real estate properties as well as the contents of numerous bank accounts, and to give up the leases on two luxury cars.
The FTC first filed suit against the alleged scammers last year, charging that they cold-called consumers, pretending to be representatives of Microsoft or Facebook. The FTC’s complaint also alleged that the defendants purchased deceptive online advertisements that led consumers to believe that calls to Pairsys were actually calls to companies’ legitimate technical support numbers.
Whether consumers were cold-called or drawn in by the misleading advertisements, what followed was a deceptive high-pressure sales pitch by operators in an overseas call center. The scammers would then request remote access to consumers’ computers, telling them that otherwise benign portions of their computers were actually signs of dangerous malware or viruses needing “immediate” repair.
The scammers would then pressure consumers into paying for computer security or technical support services, usually at a cost of $149 to $249, though in some cases the defendants charged as much as $600.
In addition to giving up ill-gotten gains, under the settlement the defendants are banned from selling any technical support service to consumers, from participating in any telemarketing generally, from making any misrepresentations to consumers in the sale of a good or service, and from collecting money for any technical support service.
The settlement includes a monetary judgment of $3,095,037.02, which is suspended pending the defendants’ surrender of the contents of numerous bank accounts and a safe deposit box, along with two pieces of real estate in Albany, N.Y. In addition, the defendants are required to terminate the leases on a 2013 Range Rover and a 2014 Maserati Quattroporte.
The Commission vote approving the stipulated order was 5-0. The order was filed in and entered by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York.
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