The operators of a computer tech support scam are permanently banned from the tech support business as part of a settlement to resolve charges by the Federal Trade Commission and the State of Ohio that the defendants tricked consumers into believing their computers were infected with viruses and malware, and then charged them hundreds of dollars for unnecessary repairs.

According to a complaint filed last year by the FTC, the defendants contacted consumers through advertisements that resembled pop-up security alerts from well- known technology companies. These ads appeared on consumers computer screens when they were browsing the Internet. The complaint alleged that the ads falsely warned consumers that their computers were infected with viruses or had been hacked or otherwise compromised, and urged them to immediately call a toll-free number for assistance.

The complaint further alleges that once consumers called the toll-free number listed on the ads, they were connected to a call center and pitched by telemarketers who claimed to be affiliated with technology companies such as Microsoft or Apple. After gaining access to consumers computers, the telemarketers purported to run a series of diagnostic tests to show that their computers had major problems requiring immediate repair. The telemarketers then persuaded consumers to buy a one-time fix or long-term service plans that cost hundreds of dollars.

The defendants -- Repair All PC LLC, Pro PC Repair LLC, I Fix PC LLC, WebTech World LLC, Online Assist LLC, Datadeck LLC, and I Fix PC dbaTechers247, as well as individual defendants Jessica Marie Serrano, Dishant Khanna, Mohit Malik, Romil Bhatia, Lalit Chadha, and Roopkala Chadha -- were charged as part of a major international crack down on tech support scams called Operation Tech Trap announced in May 2017.

As part of the settlements, all the defendants are barred from offering tech support products and services, from engaging in deceptive telemarketing practices, misrepresenting their affiliation with another company, and collecting or attempting to collect payment for tech support products or services. The settlements also impose a $12.4 million judgment, which will be suspended upon payment by the defendants of a total of $122,376.39. A separate settlement approved by the Commission and entered by the court in November with the Ohio-based defendants -- Repair All PC LLC, Pro PC Repair LLC, I Fix PC LLC, Serrano and Khanna imposes a $12.4 million judgment, which will be suspended upon payment of $27,000.

In December, the court entered a default judgment order imposing similar conduct restrictions and a $12.4 million monetary judgment against I Fix PC dba Techers247.

The Commission voted 2-0 to approve the stipulated final orders. The FTC filed the proposed orders in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio Eastern Division. The court approved the orders with the remaining defendants on January 26, 2018.

NOTE: Stipulated final orders or injunctions, etc. have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

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Michael Blair
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29.01.2018 (29.01.2018)
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