Crime

Florida attorney general’s filing accuses Sunrise company of nationwide IT phone scam

As part of a nationwide crackdown on tech scams and elder fraud, a Florida attorney general’s office filing accuses Sunrise company American PC Corporation and Raju Sharma of running a phone IT scam.
As part of a nationwide crackdown on tech scams and elder fraud, a Florida attorney general’s office filing accuses Sunrise company American PC Corporation and Raju Sharma of running a phone IT scam. AP

A Sunrise company runs tech support scam phone calls that target the technologically unsophisticated, especially senior citizens, according to a Broward Circuit Court filing by the Florida Attorney General’s Office.

Last week’s filing says American PC Corp. and company president Raju Sharma suckers victims into paying up to $1,700 to rid personal computers of non-existent viruses and malware.

“At best, APC leaves consumers’ computers in no better condition than when APC first called the consumers,” the filing states. “At worst, APC services ... under the direction of Sharma, may cause consumers’ computers to become slower, less stable, and more vulnerable to other technical and security problems.”

Problems such as the computer-freezing pop-up scam the Justice Department says Client Care Experts/First Choice Tech Support ran out of Pompano Beach and Boynton Beach.

Federal prosecutors indicted South Florida residents Michael Seward, Kevin McCormick and Grant Wasik on 14 counts of wire fraud.

Justice lumped that case in as part of this year’s massive elder fraud sweep that charged more than 260 defendants worldwide. Tuesday’s filing against APC and Sharma is one of four companion tech support fraud cases filed by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, who has been loud about targeting fraud, particularly on senior citizens.

Moody’s office wants to ban everyone associated with APC from doing anything in telemarketing or tech support, make APC and or Sharma to make good to the alleged victims, and pony up civil penalties of $10,000 or $15,000 for each senior citizen or disabled victim.

The filing describes a boiler plate tech support scam, which has joined the lottery scams as favorites for conning cash from senior citizens. Here’s how a scheme invoking the name of Windows’ creator is actually just a 21st century version of the early 20th century Broken Window Scam (one person breaks a window, a second person comes by to sell a new window).

“APC ... has cold called consumers throughout the United States claiming to be from or affiliated with well-known technology companies, such as Microsoft. During these telephone calls, APC claims that consumers’ computers have been compromised by hackers, viruses, malware, adware, or some other vulnerability.”

A false Microsoft claim — unless you applied for a job there, Microsoft isn’t calling you — would put a telemarketer into the fraudulent class right off the bat.

The target who believes the telemarketer’s claim that there’s a computer problem then gets told to give the telemarketer remote access to their computer. That gives the telemarketer control of the target’s computer.

“Once in control of consumers’ computers, APC’s telemarketers say they will run a series of purported diagnostic evaluations,” the filing states. “In reality, the ‘diagnostic’ is nothing more than a high pressure sales pitch designed to scare consumers into believing that their computers are corrupted, hacked, or otherwise compromised.”

Then, the telemarketer offers to sell a program that will get rid of the bad stuff on the computer. If the target agrees to pay, they get asked for checking account information to process the payment over the phone or mail the payment. In this case, the filing says, the target would be asked to mail payment to 12717 W. Sunrise Blvd., Suite No. 417. That’s American PC Corporation’s address registered with the State of Florida.

Here are some tips for avoiding such scams:

If the caller says he or she is from Microsoft, hang up. Microsoft isn’t phoning you about anything.

Microsoft doesn’t do pop-ups or ask you to call them, either.

Don’t click on pop-ups declaring a virus, malware or spyware has suddenly been found. It hasn’t.

If a phone call starts “Do not hang up...” immediately hang up.

Don’t give anyone remote control of your personal computer.

Get your own security software from a reputable source.

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Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.
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