The action is part of a nationwide sweep against sham tech-support services.
According to the lawsuit, Repair All PC and several related companies and individuals tricked consumers into paying for unnecessary computer support services and security software. Nationwide, hundreds of consumers filed complaints about the scheme with the Federal Trade Commission, Attorney General’s Office, or other agencies. Victims often reported losing about $100 to $500 each, though some reported losing much more.
“We found that the operators of this scheme would scare people into thinking there was a problem with their computers and then pressure them into paying for services they didn’t need,” DeWine said. “Our goal is to warn people about these tactics and to stop the bad practices.”
The investigation into Repair All PC found that the scheme generally began when consumers were browsing online and received a pop-up security warning on their computer. The warning indicated that the computer was infected with a virus (or was otherwise compromised) and instructed the consumers to call a toll-free number.
Once consumers called, they were connected to telemarketers who asked for remote access to their computers and who claimed to find errors, viruses, spyware, malware, or other problems. The operators also gave people the impression that they were affiliated with well-known companies like Microsoft or Apple. Eventually, the telemarketers asked for payment.
In some cases, if consumers refused to pay, the telemarketers allegedly used an application that would allow them to set a secret password and make the consumer’s computer unusable until the password was entered. The scheme’s operators also allegedly used a practice called “browser hijacking,” meaning consumers would be unable to close or navigate around the pop-up warnings that appeared on their computers.
The Attorney General’s and Federal Trade Commission’s lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, accuses the following defendants of violating the FTC Act and the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act: Repair All PC LLC; Pro PC Repair LLC; I Fix PC LLC; WebTech World LLC; Online Assist LLC; Datadeck LLC; I Fix PC (also doing business as Techers 247, I Fix PC, and I Fix PC 247); Jessica Marie Serrano; Dishant Khanna; Mohit Malik; Romil Bhatia; Lalit Chadha; and Roopkala Chadha.
In the lawsuit, the FTC and Attorney General seek relief for affected consumers and injunctive relief to prevent further violations.
Computer repair schemes are one of the scams addressed by the Ohio Attorney General’s “Ohio Protects” multi-media outreach campaign, which Attorney General DeWine announced in 2016. The campaign features a dedicated consumer-protection microsite and three 30-second videos that use humor to help convey messages about scams.
Consumers can learn more or report suspected fraud at www.OhioProtects.org or by calling 800-282-0515.