When Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit against iYogi accusing it of scamming consumers, it was one of the largest independent tech support providers in the world. Now, iYogi has essentially shut down after the King County Superior Court entered $6.3 million in judgments against iYogi’s international parent company in India and its U.S. subsidiary.
In addition to the judgments, iYogi’s United States president, Vishal Dahr, agreed to cease the company’s illegal practices in Washington state, with $500,000 in suspended penalties.
Ferguson’s lawsuit, filed in 2015, accused iYogi and Dhar of using deception and scare tactics to pressure consumers into buying unnecessary tech support services.
Information obtained by the Attorney General’s Office indicates iYogi India has shed most or all of its employees and is largely defunct. The company’s U.S.-based operation appears to have shut down entirely.
As a direct result of Ferguson’s lawsuit, iYogi reports the company’s value dropped by more than $260 million, according to the Times of India.
“This lawsuit shut down a major international tech support scammer so they are no longer able to deceive Washingtonians,” Ferguson said. “Our goal was to send a message to tech support scammers that my office will hold them accountable. This resolution sends that message loud and clear.”
“We welcome the court’s decision and applaud the work of the Washington State Attorney General’s office to protect consumers from the growing problem of tech support fraud,” said Courtney Gregoire, assistant general counsel with Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit. “Since 2015, Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit has received more than 300,000 customer reports about tech support scams carried out by fraudsters claiming to be from a reputable tech company. We are proud to have partnered with local authorities to help bring down iYogi’s fraudulent operations, and to have played a part in ending the widespread consumer harm caused by iYogi.”
“We know these phony tech support boiler room operators are trying to take advantage of our members, we’ve heard it first-hand,” said AARP Washington State Director Doug Shadel. “AARP is working hard to educate older Washingtonians to avoid and report these scams and the Attorney General’s victory in this case is a great blow in the effort to protect AARP members from this insidious crime.”
The judgments, entered in King County Superior Court, state that iYogi India and its U.S. subsidiary committed multiple violations of the state’s Consumer Protection Act. The company deceived consumers into believing it was part of major computer software and hardware companies like Norton, Microsoft, Apple and others to gain access to their computers. The company then used its proprietary software to misidentify “infected files” to persuade consumers to purchase iYogi support plans and antivirus software.
Attorney General’s Office investigators posed as consumers and had iYogi scan their computers, which were new. Even on these new computers with newly installed operating systems, iYogi supposedly identified “infected files.”
The judgments make iYogi’s Indian and U.S. entities jointly liable for $4 million in restitution, and more than $2.2 million in civil penalties, damages, and costs and fees.
Dhar agreed to a consent decree barring him from operating tech-support scams in Washington, or contacting Washington residents from outside the state.
In Dhar’s agreement, a $500,000 civil penalty has been suspended based on financial disclosures he provided to the Attorney General’s Office. The suspension may be lifted if the court finds that Dhar misrepresented his finances.
The Attorney General’s Office is in the process of determining methods of collecting payment of the judgments from the companies in the U.S. and in India. A process for returning any recovered restitution to consumers will be determined at a later date.
iYogi will not be directly refunding any consumers, so if consumers receive a call from someone claiming to be with iYogi asking for information to send a refund, it is a scam. Additionally, the Attorney General’s Office is aware of scammers who are wrongfully using the iYogi name in contacts with consumers.
Assistant Attorneys General Daniel Davies and Andrea Alegrett led the case for the Attorney General’s Office.
Tech support scam variations
There are many variations of tech support scams beyond the tactics iYogi employs. Some rely on massive spam campaigns that promise a faster, more secure computer and draw readers to a URL; others use pop-up ads that falsely claim the user’s machine is infected with malware. A common tactic involves unsolicited telephone calls where callers pose as computer support technicians. While the tactics vary, the goal is the same: to gain access to your computer and ultimately your money and personal information.
How to avoid the scam
The Attorney General’s Office offers the following tips to avoid tech support scams:
- Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you can confirm it is a legitimate representative from a company where you’re already a customer;
- Ask if there is a fee or subscription associated with the “service.” If there is, hang up;
- Do not provide Social Security numbers, banking, or credit card or other financial information; and
- Protect personal computers with legitimate and updated security software.
Victim of a tech support scam? Contact the Attorney General’s Office
If you believe you are a victim of the iYogi scam, or any other tech support scam, file a consumer complaint with the Attorney General’s Office at http://www.atg.wa.gov/file-complaint.
For additional Internet safety tips, advice and information visit the Attorney General’s website, here.