back to article Fake tech support 'scam' husband and wife banned FOR LIFE from computer repair world

A husband and wife team accused of scamming people with dodgy tech support calls about bogus malware infections have been barred for life from offering IT support and repairs. America's trade regulator, the FTC, said today that its settlement deal with Madhu and Ila Sethi would comprise both a $2m fine and an order that …

  1. david bates

    Thats a plan...

    Is there any way I can sign up for being banned from having to fix other peoples PCs?

    Perhaps someone could start a blacklist that IT pros have their names put on to save them from friends, neighbours, relatives, friends of friends etc...

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

      Re: Thats a plan...

      Sure, I think you've been shown the way . . . start calling people up out of the blue and telling them they have viruses. For my part, I plan on focusing on the printer business, with the optimistic view that I will be permanently banned from ever having to being able to diagnose or fix a printer issue . . . including my own.

    2. Lee D

      Re: Thats a plan...

      Such a blacklist already exists. It's called:

      "Sure, here's my hourly rate."

      For advanced level courses you also have:

      "By the way, I added a stupidity tax for not having a backup / having clicked the attachment in the first place / this being the second time I've had to tell you not to do that / believing what the guy in PC World said"

      I find that at the first mention of actual payment, all those people suddenly stop asking you, or their problems mysteriously aren't that important after all, or you never get the follow-up call that they said they'd give to arrange it with you.

      1. gerdesj Silver badge

        Re: Thats a plan...

        Such a blacklist already exists. It's called: "Sure, here's my hourly rate."

        That does work well until your SO casually recommends you to one of their mates/colleagues ...

        1. I3N

          Re: Thats a plan...

          But the SO's computer is THE case in point ...

        2. Solarflare

          Re: Thats a plan...

          "That does work well until your SO casually recommends you to one of their mates/colleagues ..."

          Yeah...the wife recently said to a friend (her beautician, but they get on well) that she's sure I would happily help her to set up a website etc etc. Yeah, thanks love.

        3. Aaiieeee

          Re: Thats a plan...

          Provided your hourly rate is sufficiently excessive there should be smiles all round :)

      2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

        Re: Thats a plan...

        There's also:

        "I'm sorry, I've never used Windows 8/8.1/10, I wouldn't know where to start..."

    3. rmason

      Re: Thats a plan...

      "i'm sorry, i'd love to help, but i'm on the computing offenders register, I can't be within 10 feet of a broken computer"

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Thats a plan...

      Oh the SO is a continual source of IT pain.

      Right now it's her f*cking Mac Pro which passes all the Apple Hardware Tests, including the one that takes over an hour, yet from a clean OSX install on a brand new drive, can produce the beachball of AAAAARRRRGGGH in about 5 minutes.

      Seriously, it would be cheaper for me to just buy her another of the hateful things.

      Anon 'cos I'm not going to buy her another of the hateful things!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Career Change

    Now they'll become IT instructors.

  3. TrumpSlurp the Troll

    Outrageous sums of money?

    And they get a nominal $2M fine but don't have to pay nearly all of it. Just promise not to do it again. No admissions, no criminal record.

    Like being beaten around the head with a leaf of limp lettuce.

    Where is Judge Dredd when you need him?

    1. tfewster

      Re: Outrageous sums of money?

      Yeah, what's missing here? They scammed people, but the FTC couldn't prove it was fraud, hence a warning off rather than a prison sentence?

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Outrageous sums of money?

        I paid $1.5M for a payroll system and then IBM called and claimed I had to pay another $150M over the next 6 years to make it work.

        Fortunately this wasn't a criminal scam - just a government IT contract

  4. jelabarre59

    Good start

    Now here's a punishment I would like to see doled out more often. Perhaps the people who designed MSOffice, Metro/Material Design/etc, or the programming staff of eBay would be good candidates.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Good start

      Go back and RTFA... they ended up with a slap on the wrist basically. So what good would it do?

  5. EarthDog

    I think I called these guys

    I was reading a site when a popup ad appeared saying my PC was infected and I needed to clean my registry and run anti-virus. Well since I didn't have a registry it sounded fishy.

    And unfortunately for them I was bored and had nothing better to do.

    So I called them and asked for Heather and Bob. Of course the phone drone had no idea what I was talking about. I spun a tale of Heather and Bob, how I got a new contract for the company worth millions, and needed to talk to Heather and Bob right away. So we went back and forth for a while. I patiently explained things over and over again and also asked for their fax number so I could send the contract.

    So after a bit I asked for the phone drone's supervisor. Who of course had no idea about Heather, Bob, or a contract that needed to go to corporate. So I patiently went over the situation with him several times. Finally I got bored and asked him to find the numbers and email them to me. I gave him one of my spam trap emails.

    I never did get an email reply. I am sort of disappointed with their level of customer care.

  6. kain preacher

    Bah a a real punishment would to have them work a hell desk position.

    1. Florida1920

      Bah a a real punishment would to have them work a hell desk position
      Cattle prod.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Bah a a real punishment would to have them work a hell desk position.

      Indeed, far from banning them for life they should have been sentenced to spend the next 5 or 10 years doing nothing BUT cleaning PCs and removing malware for real. Hard labo(u)r, 21st century style.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Naaah, just make them work as a true call center cattle... under some evil supervisor.

        1. kain preacher

          I should of said under BOFH rule.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      With Linus as their boss.

  7. Nolveys

    One Down...

    ...about 70 million* to go. Oh, they just have to promise to never do it again and pay 10k?

    None down, 70 million to go.

    * I assume the figure of 70 million is completely accurate as I pulled it directly from my rump.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      "I assume the figure of 70 million is completely accurate"

      Unluckily, out of a pool of about 1.68 billions, I'm afraid the actual number could be higher....

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    they were let off

    If only they'd been criminally prosecuted instead of being given the kid glove treatment by the FTC

    1. td97402

      Re: they were let off

      They’ve had their license to print money revoked, so, there’s that. Also, it not a bad idea to get the consent decree, rather then chance fancy lawyer trickery getting them off at trial.

  9. Bill Posters

    Shell Company

    One of the Shell companies wasn't called Telstra by chance?

    Father rings Telstra coz' his email client no longer connects, webmail works however.

    Round and round on Support. Reboots, different joy.

    Buys Premium support annual subscription.


    "Thank you, your receipt number is.... and try this as a mail server address.."

    "Memphis" Raines would have been impressed.

  10. Updraft102

    Maybe someone should take out an ad in the newspaper (the old fashioned print kind) telling people that we've detected a virus on their PC and they need to call us for help. The obvious problem with that should trigger suspicion in even the most trusting reader, helping to train people to associate the "out of the blue" virus claim with "something's fishy about this," and the few that actually believed that a static print ad was talking to them specifically could be given some one on one counseling when they call on the phone. It would be a public service thing. I don't know how many people read actual newspapers made out of paper anymore, but those that do surely skew elderly, the same population the scammers are probably looking for (though by some reports, millennials fall for the scam even more than oldsters).

    It could be expanded to TV after that, but with TVs getting "smart" as they are, the line between a completely passive TV and a computer is being blurred, so the contradiction that makes it work may not be so evident.

    1. vir

      Someone would still fall for that.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Corporal punishment

    For scammers.

  12. John Smith 19 Gold badge


    More like Troll solutions.

    And what should you not do with a troll?

    1. DropBear

      Re: "Trothsolutions"

      Ooh, ooh, I know this one - drop a bridge on them! ...wait, is this a trick question?

  13. jb99

    How to avoid the fake calls

    "We have detected a virus on your computer..."

    "OH! I'm SO glad you called, it's got a screen up saying that I have to send some "bitcoins" so I can access my files again. Hopw do I fix that?"

    1. Just Enough

      Re: How to avoid the fake calls

      "Our software will fix that for you. It can connect to your computer remotely and remove ransomware. What is your credit card number?"

  14. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    One scammer goes down, another one (or two) springs up in its place...

    What are the chances that these two nice persons will just emigrate to another country and continue their shenanigans from there?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    barred for life from offering IT support and repairs

    how about ITC consultancy? :/

  16. adam payne

    Well that's two down and a few million to go.

    'America's trade regulator, the FTC, said today that its settlement deal with Madhu and Ila Sethi would comprise both a $2m fine and an order that neither can operate any business that provides "any plan, program, or software, marketed to repair, maintain, or improve a computer’s performance or security, including registry cleaners, anti-virus programs, anti-malware programs, fire wall programs, and computer or software diagnostic services."'

    Sorry but it doesn't go far enough for me. Asset strip them.

  17. Tom -1

    I regularly get calls from people claiming to be Micrsoft Customer Service Engineers who have notice tha my computer is misbehaving - I usully make an attempt towaste as much of their time as I can, but sometimes tell them I don't have any Microsoft software on my computer instead. The (probably forlorn) hope is that this will be noticed and get at least one scammer team to stop calling me. I get similar calls from people purporting to be Apple customer support engineers, with them I just hang up - the more phone calls they make the sooner they will go bust, because surely no Apple customer is sufficiently dim to realise that the only customer support Apple ever does is to tell their customers nothing's wrong with the Apple stuff, it's just the customer is doing something stupid (eg holding their iPhone 4 the wrong way).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think I got on their blacklist!

      I was trying to beat my mate Dave's record of 45 minutes... Unfortunately something came up so I had to cut it short. After thanking them for their time and entertainment, where they still remained in character and continued with the "but you really need to fix your computer" line, I announced I was an IT professional (both hardware and software) and would happily run rings round them another time if they'd like to arrange a convenient date and time.

      This finally made them break character, and I think I learnt some new words in Urdu.

      I replied with a nice selection of Anglo-Saxon, French, German, Polish and Hungarian curses.

      (Yes, I'm still a 14 year old who can only remember rude words in foreign languages!).

      They've never called back.

  18. Jtom

    Someone (smarter than I) here please get a law degree, file a class action lawsuit representing all the 'customers', and ensure these scammers live in poverty for the rest of their lives. I doubt if they have much real assets left, so the work would likely be pro bono. Perhaps if scammers knew they may be forever poor if caught, they would rethink their chosen profession.

    I've given up on the judicial system ever doing the right thing and putting these lowlifes in jail.

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