FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said at least 2,400 people and possible many more have been victimized by the scammers, and the agency believes scams of this type have cost consumers tens of millions of dollars worldwide.
In the scheme, the scareware scammers use an old technology, the telephone, to cold-call victims and direct them to a common, harmless Windows error log on their computers, then convince them it's a sign of a serious virus infection and charge them up to $450 for a "fix" of the problem, ArsTechnical reported Wednesday.
When consumers agreed to pay the fee, they were directed to a website to enter a code or download a software program that allowed the scammers remote access to the consumers' computers.
Such scams have been perpetrated for years, but in announcing six lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in New York against the scammers the FTC said the operations have become particularly widespread.
In the suit the FTC charged the defendants with violating the FTC Act, which bars unfair and deceptive commercial practices, as well as the Telemarketing Sales Rule and with illegally calling numbers on the Do Not Call Registry.