Acting on a referral from Facebook, the Federal Trade Commission announced Friday that at the commission’s request, a federal court shut down the operations of Pairsys, an Albany, N.Y.-based company that coerced computer users into paying hundreds of dollars apiece for unnecessary technical support and software that was available free-of-charge.
According to the FTC, Pairsys employees cold-called computer users and posed as representatives of Facebook or Google, and the company was also behind online ads that indicated that its phone number was the technical support number for legitimate companies in the industry.
The FTC said that once Pairsys reached consumers, they were subject to high-pressure sales pitches from an overseas call center, in which victims were convinced to surrender remote access to their computers, after which they were led to believe that their PCs were infected with viruses and malware.
At that point, according to the commission, victims were charged $149 to $249 for bogus warranty programs and software that was already available free-of-charge, with some victims being charged as much as $600. The FTC alleged that Pairsys has brought in nearly $2.5 million from these practices since early 2012.
According to the FTC, the defendants in the case — Pairsys, Uttam Saha and Tiya Bhattacharya — agreed to the terms of a preliminary injunction issued by the court, under which they are prohibited from misrepresenting their company as representatives of Facebook, Google and other companies, or of claiming that computer users have viruses or spyware on their machines.
The defendants are also banned from deceptive telemarketing practices, the agency said, and the company’s customer lists may not be sold or rented to third parties. Pairsys’ websites and phone numbers must be shut down and disconnected, and the company’s assets will be frozen.
FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection director Jessica Rich said in a release announcing the agency’s ruling:
The defendants behind Pairsys targeted seniors and other vulnerable populations, preying on their lack of computer knowledge to sell “security” software and programs that had no value at all. We are pleased that the court has shut down the company for now, and we look forward to getting consumers’ money back in their pockets.
Readers: Do you know anyone who was a victim of Pairsys or similar scam outfits?