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Thursday, June 23, 2011

FBI cracks down on Latvian scareware scammers

The FBI has gone after 2 Latvian gangs that have made millions of dollars by sneaking fake virus warnings onto computers and then charging them to get rid of the supposed virus. The FBI, along with law enforcement agencies in 7 other countries seized over 40 computers used in the scam. Raids in Latvia against the gang allowed police to gain control of 5 bank accounts used to transfer money to the group's ringleaders.

According to the FBI, one of the groups infected almost a million computers, which cost users over $72 million. A second group made nearly $2 million by putting fake ads on the Minneapolis Star Tribune's website. "Visitors to the website began experiencing slow system performance, unwanted pop ups, and total system failure," the Department of Justice said in the indictment. The pop ups were used to scare visitors into buying a $49.95 fake security program called Antivirus Soft.

Scareware works by displaying a message on the victim's screen with a fake virus warning. The the warning keeps popping up until the victim pays for the software to "clean" the infection. In this case the software cost the victims over $100. About one million people are thought to have installed the fake security software.

The defendants are facing up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 on the wire fraud and conspiracy charges, and up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 on the computer fraud charge. They could also have to forfeit their illegal profits.

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