Three men have been charged over a $100 million scam involving fake anti-virus software.
Through companies including Innovative Marketing and Byte Hosting Internet Services, the men are accused of posting ads on third party websites. These ads redirected users to websites that appeared to be virus scans.
Users were then told their machines contained viruses, and urged to buy a series of fake anti-virus packages with names like DriveCleaner and ErrorSafe, and costing up to $70.
The companies were effectively closed down in 2008 when the Federal Trade Commission brought a civil action against them.
The scam is believed to have fooled more than a million users in more than 60 countries.
“These defendants allegedly preyed on innocent computer users, exploiting their fraudulently induced fears for personal gain,” said Robert D Grant, special agent-in-charge of the Chicago Office of the FBI.
“We will continue our efforts to identify and aggressively investigate similar schemes with the assistance of our law enforcement partners both at home and internationally.”
The charges, filed in the Chicago District Court, name Shaileshkumar Jain, a US citizen believed to be living in Ukraine; James Reno, of Ohio; and Bjorn Sundin of Sweden. They’re charged with computer fraud and conspiracy to commit computer fraud, and Sundin and Jain also face several charges of wire fraud.
If guilty, they could face up to 20 years prison for each chanrge, along with a $250,000 fine – and prosecutors are calling for $100 million deposits in European banks to be handed over as well.