RealTime IT News

Bogus Spyware Vendors Settle FTC Charges

Two companies selling alleged bogus anti-spyware software and services settled Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges Thursday that the firms' claims were deceptive and violated federal law.

The owners and operators of Spykiller and Spyware Assassin each claimed to detect spyware -- even when none was on a user's computer -- and then sold consumers anti-spyware software that either did not work or did not work as advertised.

Danilo Ladendoft and Trustsoft, Inc., of SpyKiller agreed in the settlement to pay approximately $1.9 million to settle the FTC charges. The deal also prohibits them from making deceptive claims in the sale, marketing, advertising or promotion of any goods or services, as well as bars the specific misrepresentations used in promoting SpyKiller.

In addition, the FTC claims spam messages promoting the SpyKiller software were not identified as advertising, used false "from" lines, did not include valid postal addresses and failed to provide consumers with notice of and the ability to opt-out of, all violations of the CAN-SPAM Act.

The settlement prohibits future violations of the CAN-SPAM Act.

Thomas L. Delanoy and his corporation, MaxTheater, Inc., makers and marketers of Spyware Assassin, agreed in their settlement with the FTC to pay $76,000, which is the full amount of the FTC's consumer inquiry.

The settlement also bans Delanoy and MaxTheater from selling and marketing any anti-spyware product or service in the future.

In March of last year, the FTC charged that its Spyware Assassin and its affiliates used Web sites, e-mail, banner ads and pop-ups to drive consumers to the Spyware Assassin site.

There, consumers were told the site would scan for free the user's computers to determine whether the machine was infected with spyware.

The FTC claims the scans were phony and Spyware Assassin's representations that spyware had been detected were deceptive.

Further, the FTC states, the anti-spyware software sold by Spyware Assassin for $29.95 did not remove all or substantially all spyware, which is another deceptive claim violating the FTC Act.

In June 2005, the FTC charged Trustsoft with using similar tactics to sell its SpyKiller software.

The FTC alleged the defendants sent pop-up and e-mail messages informing consumers that their computers had been remotely scanned and that spyware had been detected, even though defendants had not performed any such scans.

Although the scan itself was free, consumers usually had to pay approximately $39.95 to enable SpyKiller's removal capabilities. As with Spyware Assassin, the FTC claims SpyKiller failed to remove significant amounts of spyware.