The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has won a court order prohibiting two software companies from marketing their wares online. At least, in the manner in which they have been marketing them.

Innovative Marketing and ByteHosting Internet Services have allegedly been promoting sales of non-major-brand computer security products including WinFixer, WinAntivirus, DriveCleaner, ErrorSafe and XP Antivirus.

It seems the two companies have been using so-called ‘scareware’ tactics, subjecting unwitting Web surfers to online ads which look like warnings, falsely claiming that their computers were infected with viruses, spyware or pornography.

The FTC claims that at least a million consumers were frightened into buying the companies’ software products in recent months — at (US)$39.95 or more a pop.

The FTC further alleges that the companies deceived Internet service providers (ISPs) and on line advertising netwoirks that their ads were legitimate, but then clandestinely replace the ads they had submitted for approval to the distributors with ‘scare’ messages.

In addition, the FTC has issued a product alert warning consumers about scareware marketing scams and warning against any offers of free virus scans that might come your way via unsolicited e-mail or pop-ups at Web sites.

There are several legitimate online free malware scanners available. Perhaps the best-known is Trend Micro’s Housecall service which features an online introduction to their full retail product. They market you hard to buy it, but don’t use scare tactics — and it gives you something to read while the scanner does its work.

Leave a Reply