FTC mails out refund checks for buyers of scareware

The defendants' scans falsely told computer owners their PCs had viruses, spyware or illegal pornography, the FTC says

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has begun to mail refund checks to computer owners who purchased so-called scareware from vendors who allegedly used deceptive advertising to trick customers into buying the software to fix their supposedly infected computers.

About 320,000 customers will receive refund checks, averaging US$20, the FTC said in a press release. The exact amount of the checks will be based on the amount of individual loss.

In December 2008, FTC filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland against a group of businesses selling software programs with names such as Winfixer, Drive Cleaner, and XP Antivirus. The software, with a price of $39.95 or more, falsely claimed that scans had detected viruses, spyware and illegal pornography on consumers' computers, the FTC said. The defendants sold more than 1 million software products, the FTC said.

In January, defendant Marc D'Souza, his father, Maurice D'Souza, and other defendants agreed to pay $8.2 million in a settlement with the FTC.

The agency's settlement administrator, Epiq Systems, began mailing the refund money from that settlement last week. Consumers who receive checks must cash them within 60 days.

Consumers who believe they are entitled to a refund or have questions may visit FTC.gov/refunds for more information

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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Tags regulationlegalU.S. Federal Trade CommissionCivil lawsuitsMarc D'SouzaMaurice D'Souza

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Grant Gross

IDG News Service
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