Technology

'Scareware' trickster fined $163m by US authorities

WinFixer pop-up scam
False notices like these were intended to trick the unsuspecting user into spending money on software

A woman behind a massive "scareware" scam has been fined $163m (£101m) by US authorities.

Kristy Ross ran an operation that tricked its victims into thinking their computer had been infected with malicious software - and then charged them between $40 and $60 to "fix" it.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been pursuing the case since 2008.

Others investigated by the FTC have been ordered to return millions of dollars in earnings from similar scams.

In 2011, Marc D'Souza and his father, Maurice D'Souza, were ordered to give back $8.2 million of their "ill-gotten" profits.

'Elaborate'

In this week's case Ms Ross, who is now banned from selling computer security software, ran a scheme that used a pop-up advertisement to suggest a "system scan" was taking place.

The bogus scan would detect a host of "threats" on the user's system, and would prompt them to spend between $40 and $60 in order to solve the problem.

The FTC described the method as "elaborate and technologically sophisticated".

The scam products' names included Winfixer, DriveCleaner, FreeRepair, WinAntivirus, WinAntispyware and System Doctor.

Ms Ross was involved with two companies, Ukraine-based Innovative Marketing and ByteHosting Internet Services. It is believed that between them more than a million machines may have been targeted.

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