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US slaps scareware scammer with £100m fine

The Federal Trade Commission this week continued its crackdown on Internet scareware, imposing a judgment of more than $163 million (£100 million) on the final defendant in a long-running case.

Kristy Ross has also been permanently barred from selling computer security software or software that interferes with a consumer's computer, and from any form of deceptive marketing.

Ross was one of several people charged in 2008 with conning more than one million consumers into buying fake software to remove a computer virus. The FTC alleged that the operation bought ads on popular Internet networks and websites, which displayed bogus "system scan" notices on people's computers. These scans told consumers that their computers were infected with a virus and needed to be removed by purchasing software for $40 - $60 (£25 - £37). But there was no scan and no virus removal.

A Maryland district court put a stop to the practice, pending litigation. In addition to Ross, Marc and Maurice D'Souza last year were ordered to pay $8.2 million (£5 million) for their part in the scheme. Four others settled with the FTC and three are in default. Ross was the last scammer to face the music.

Ross claimed that she was only an employee of Innovative Marketing – also charged in the case – not a "control person," and had no knowledge of the misconduct.

The court's final ruling makes Ross, along with Innovative Marketing and employees Sam Jain and Daniel Sundin, liable for $163,167,539.95 (approximately £100 million).

This week, the FTC froze the assets of more fake tech support scams that tricked users into paying for the removal of non-existent computer viruses.

The FTC in September also took down PC rental firms that were spying on unknowing users.

Image Credit: Flickr (Don Hankins)