FTC Shuts Down Pop-up Ad Scammers

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Federal Trade Commission headquarters.
Federal Trade Commission headquarters. Credit: Carol M. Highsmith

The Federal Trade Commission just shut down the operators of a multinational tech support company that tricked people with alarming pop-up ads. The agency announced its complaint today against the operators of a firm allegedly serving pop-ups featuring siren and buzzing sounds that alerted recipients to fake security threats and prompted them to dial toll-free numbers that connected them to overseas telemarketers who aimed to swindle hundreds of dollars for phony security fixes.

The commission's complaint alleged that the ads duped people into believing legitimate well-branded firms such as Microsoft and Apple were the source of the security alerts. Some ads featured an audio message featuring a voice warning people of a computer problem. When consumers called the toll-free numbers promoted in the ads, phone operators in a call center in India aimed to sell them computer repair services that required remote access to their computers for between $200 to $400.

"The FTC has brought cases against numerous tech support scammers over the last four years," said Jay Mayfield, an FTC senior public affairs specialist.

The FTC alleged that a group of St. Louis-registered firms it believes to be affiliated -- Global Access Technical Support LLC, Global sMind LLC, Source Pundit LLC, Helios Digital Media LLC, and VGlobal ITES Pvt. Ltd. – perpetrated the scam. The agency obtained a temporary stop order from a Missouri-based federal district court that effectively forces the companies to temporarily cease operations and freezes their assets.

While the FTC often negotiates with companies to agree to a settlement, a temporary stop such as this typically occurs when the agency believes that if a firm is aware of an investigation it could begin stashing money and assets offshore.

The alleged violators are under supervision of a court-appointed entity that now has control of the companies.

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