TYLER, Texas (KETK) – U.S. Attorney General Stephen J. Cox has partnered with federal law enforcement to shut down six websites and protect consumers from internet-based fraud programs.
The six websites were part of a telemarketing and online promotion scheme designed to entice Amazon customers into buying unnecessary services for setting up their Amazon Echo devices.
“Internet-based fraud programs pose a challenge to law enforcement because they typically involve an organized group of scammers scattered around the world. The success of this investigation was the direct result of investigative measures by the secret service and the Ministry of Justice. The secret service will further strengthen our partnerships between the public and private sectors, our law enforcement colleagues and the Department of Justice. The Secret Service will continue to lead the fight against cyber-enabled fraud and hold anyone accountable who attempt to exploit US citizens for their own illegal gain. "
William Mack, US Intelligence Resident Agent responsible for the Tyler Resident Office
The seized websites contained photos of Amazon Echo devices and alleged offer services that Amazon customers can use to activate their devices.
The websites included links to "download" the Alexa app. Instead of getting customers to actually download the app, the websites simulated a download process that resulted in an error message stating "Download Failed".
The websites then asked customers to call specific numbers for technical support for the application.
Once customers called those phone numbers, so-called "technicians" who worked for the website operators took over remote control of the customers' computers and convinced them that "technical issues" were preventing their Echo devices from working properly.
The technicians then sold the customer's computer services to fix the fictional issues and charged the customers a fee ($ 99 for a two-year plan or $ 149 for a four-year plan) to register Alexa software or provide network security.
The Justice Department recommends Americans take the following precautions to protect themselves from similar scams:
- Before purchasing any electronic device support product or service, check with the actual manufacturer or supplier of the electronic device to determine whether the services are legitimate or necessary.
- Do not click links or open email attachments from unknown or unverified sources.
- Do not download software to allow unknown or unverified sources to access your computers or devices
- Do not purchase services from telemarketers or online marketers if the solicitation lacks a written description of the services provided and does not have a business address.
For more recommendations and resources for victims of fraudulent marketing scams, as well as more information on how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud programs, please visit www.ftc.gov.
Following the US seizure of the sites, visitors to the sites receive the following message:
The investigation was brought up by the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Texas by the Consumer Protection Division of the Civil Division as part of their coordination of the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force.