Federal Trade Commission raps spyware company for false detection

The US Federal Trade Commission is targeting a company offering free spyware detection, for fraudulently claiming to detect spyware infections and selling spyware removal software that failed to clean infections.

The FTC is seeking a permanent ban on MaxTheater’s sharp marketing practices: it describes them as ‘phony’ and ‘deceptive’. It is also seeking redress for those that stumped up nearly $30 for the poor quality removal software.

The company made extreme claims as to the nature of the spyware threat: ‘You WILL eventually experience credit card and/identity theft and your computer will ultimately crash and cease working for good . . . It’s not a matter of if, but truly a matter of when.’

On visiting a company’s website, a user sees a pop up window that claims to have performed a remote scan and found evidence of spyware infections, urging the download of scan software to repeat the operation locally.

However, the FTC noted that the window would pop up even on a clean computer with antispyware software already installed and that the local scan was also prone to making phony claims. ‘Even when the computer is clean of all spyware, the defendants report that spyware has been detected, and the file folders the defendants claim contain the spyware are either empty or contain files that do not contain spyware, according to the agency,’ said the FTC.

The FTC also said that the Spyware Assassin removal tool failed to remove ‘substantially all’ genuine spyware on an infected computer.

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