The Attorney General's Office provided a press release that details a computer support scam that swindled many elderly Massachusetts residents out of money. The scam was operated through fraudulent companies called "VTech Software" and "Techmate." If you believe you may have been scammed, please read the below press release and contact the Attorney General's office at: 617-963-2628.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE MEDIA CONTACT:
March 4, 2021 Emalie Gainey
MELROSE COUPLE TO PAY RESTITUTION TO MASSACHUSETTS CONSUMERS VICTIMIZED BY FRAUDULENT TECH SUPPORT SCHEME
Settlement with AG’s Office also Prohibits Couple from Operating Technical Support Companies in the Future
BOSTON – In a settlement with Attorney General Maura Healey’s Office, a Melrose couple will pay $145,000 for operating a fraudulent tech support scheme that charged unsuspecting consumers for unnecessary repairs to nonexistent problems with their computers. The settlement also prohibits the couple from operating any technical support companies in the future.
This conduct was part of a nationwide scheme that scammed consumers out of millions of dollars. The AG’s Office estimates that between June 2014 and November 2016, VTech Software Solution, Inc. sold at least $70,000 in fake “tech support” services to Massachusetts residents. The company charged more than 200 Massachusetts consumers approximately $200 to $3,000 each for unnecessary and illusory computer support services. VTech Software Solution, and an affiliated company, Techmate, Inc., were both owned by Shalu Chawla. Her husband, Vishal Chawla, assisted in both companies’ affairs.
“This couple ran a company that scammed elderly residents into paying money for tech support on their computers they didn’t need,” said AG Healey. “We took quick action to stop this scheme, shut down their business, and secure funds for people who were victimized.”
The AG’s Office began an investigation into the Chawlas and their companies after receiving a tip from the Federal Trade Commission. The AG’s Office filed a lawsuit in December 2019 against the Chawlas, VTech Software and Techmate.
According to the AG’s complaint, VTech Software pushed pop-up windows to consumers’ computers that falsely claimed the computers had critical problems and directed them to call a 1-800 number to get tech support, which representatives of VTech Software often misrepresented was provided through Microsoft. VTech Software then requested remote access to the consumer’s computer, pretended to fix it, and asked consumers to purchase a subscription for support services at a cost of $200 to $3,000. Once the consumer paid, VTech Software issued deceptive and confusing receipts that prevented consumers from understanding what they actually paid for, and then repeatedly called the consumer to claim it detected other problems with the consumer’s computer that were not covered by the subscription. Techmate is alleged to have engaged in similar practices.
The consent judgment, entered in Suffolk Superior Court this week, resolves the AG’s case against the defendants. It requires the defendants to pay $145,000 and imposes a suspended penalty of $2 million, which the defendants must pay if found in violation of the consent judgment.
The AG’s Office will be setting up a process for victims of VTech Software and Techmate to submit a claim for restitution. If you believe you have lost money due to this scam and would like more information about how to submit a claim, please call the dedicated line at 617-963-2628.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Jared Rinehimer of the AG’s Data Privacy & Security Division and Assistant Attorney General Brendan Jarboe, and Paralegals David Birch, Breana Beaudreault and Matthew Johnson, all of the AG’s Consumer Protection Division, with the assistance of Investigators Colleen Frost and Ciara Tran of the AG’s Civil Investigations Division.