$163 million… one hundred and sixty three fucking million dollars! That is the astonishing (and justified) penalty a federal court laid down on a scammer which defrauded people to believe their computer is infected with some malware/spyware and buy her futile software to “clean” the fictitious malignant elements.
Just as other swindlers, Kristy Ross knew she had to harp on the sensitive emotions of potential preys to get their attention… and money. Fear is an extremely powerful feeling that can swiftly drive people to pull out their wallets and hand over credit card numbers. Exploiting the fear factor can be awfully profitable, around $163 million profitable according to the FTC calculations.
Sweet Kristy and her accomplices’ game-plan to reach the victims’ pockets was rather intricate: With their sham companies, the scammers have created a sophisticated coded advertisements to be distributed through popular advertising networks. The coded ads displayed one version of legitimate ad to the advertising networks to receive their approval and displayed the second fraudulent version to the people.
By using the popular advertising networks, Kristy & friends have had a profound stretch into high-trafficked known websites which falsely created a legitimate facade for the scam ad. People had trusted the website and consequently trusted the ads it’d featured. The site owners had trusted the advertising networks and thus the ads they’d delivered.
The ad itself appeared as some sort of anti-virus scan, which of course deceitfully “revealed” malicious programs in the users’ computers. Here are couple of screenshots of other bogus anti-virus scan ads that still wanders around the web:
When naive individuals receives those kinds of alarming warnings on their screens, not knowing they are fake or even just ads, this is where many rush to the embracing claws of the scammer’s valueless software to solve their non-existing virus troubles. For a meek cost obviously. According to the FTC, about $40-$60 for a wretched software to deplete the nothingness.
Innumerable amount of fearful people had fallen into Kristy Ross and her partners’ mischiefs until the FTC finally caught up with their misdeeds. But the Internet is yet to be safe. Many more anti virus/malware/spyware scams are still out there, waiting for that scary finger that will click on the scam ad…
If you see some surprising virus or malware scan on your browser, do yourself a big favor and ignore it… and if fear still burdens your serenity, just go ahead and download one real anti-virus software from companies like Symantec, AVG, McAfee or Kaspersky.
The full FTC plaintiff long and super-boring document can be found in this PDF.