The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida has ordered Florida company, Windows Service Center LLC, and its owner and operator, Erica Herson, 41, of Miami, to stop operating a technical-support fraud scheme that is alleged to have defrauded elderly and vulnerable U.S. victims out of over $1 million.
In a complaint filed on March 30, the United States alleges that Herson operated a scheme through Windows Service Center, as well as through her prior company USEL Support LLC, in which she contacted individuals over the phone and convinced them to purchase overpriced and unnecessary technical support services and anti-virus software by falsely claiming that their computers were infected with viruses or malware or were accessed by hackers. The complaint alleges that, in reality, Herson had no specific knowledge of the security of the victims’ computers prior to making the calls.
The complaint also alleges that Herson charged victims thousands of dollars for the installation of software that is available online for free or for a low cost. In addition, the complaint alleges that once a victim had made a purchase from USEL Support, Herson and USEL Support contacted that same victim repeatedly to try to obtain further payments by falsely claiming that the victim’s computer had additional security problems. The complaint alleges that Herson is continuing the same technical support fraud scheme through her new company, Windows Service Center.
“Technical support fraud schemes often prey on America’s seniors, exploiting their fear of online threats to steal their hard-earned savings,” said Principal Deputy Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice is committed to using all tools available to protect seniors from telemarketing fraud, whether those fraudulent phone calls are coming from call centers abroad, or from right here in the United States.”
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners will hold accountable anyone engaging in schemes to defraud our seniors,” said U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez for the Southern District of Florida. “We urge the public to avoid giving computer access to unsolicited callers claiming a computer needs repair, to use caution before clicking on links in emails or on social media and to report suspected fraud to the appropriate authorities.”
“Schemes of this nature target our elderly citizens under the guise of helping them,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigation Division. “The FBI works hand-in-hand with our law enforcement partners to dismantle crimes and scams like these, and we will bring to justice those fraudsters who commit them. Protecting our nation’s senior and vulnerable citizens is of the utmost importance to the FBI.”
The temporary restraining order entered March 31 prohibits Herson and Windows Service Center from engaging in telemarketing activity related to computer or software technical support and from accepting consumer payments related to any computer or software technical support service.
This case is being handled by Trial Attorneys Amy Kaplan and Ann Entwistle of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorney James A. Weinkle for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida.
The department’s extensive and broad-based efforts to combat elder fraud seeks to halt the widespread losses seniors suffer from fraud schemes. The best method for prevention, however, is by sharing information about the various types of elder fraud schemes with relatives, friends, neighbors and other seniors who can use that information to protect themselves.
If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is available at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This Department of Justice hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professionals who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim and identifying relevant next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis. Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud, and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The hotline is staffed seven days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. ET. English, Spanish and other languages are available.
Additional information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts may be found at www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. Information about the Department of Justice’s Elder Fraud Initiative is available at www.justice.gov/elderjustice.