FTC wins injunction over ‘deceptive’ spyware claims

The Federal Trade Commission has won an injunction against a Houston-based company for making "deceptive" anti-spyware claims.

A judge for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas granted a preliminary injunction against Trustsoft and the company's principal Danilo Ladendorf in order to stop the company from sending pop-ups and spam to get consumers to pay for a "anti-spyware" program that did not work as claimed. The agency has also had the assets of the company frozen.

The FTC alleged defendants told users their computers had been remotely "scanned" and spyware had been "detected" even though no such scan had been performed. The defendants then urged users to visit a website to get a "free scan" for spyware.

While the "scan" was running, the program displayed a status report entitled "Spyware Found on your PC:" that included a category called "Live Spyware Processes." which identified a number of legitimate programs, such as anti-virus and office applications, as spyware. While the "scan" was free, users had to pay $39.95 to enable SpyKiller's "removal" capabilities.

The defendants' marketing materials promised that SpyKiller would find and remove "all" spyware, including "all traces" of particular spyware on users' computers. The agency alleged the defendants violated the FTC Act as the software failed to remove significant amounts of spyware, including spyware specified on the defendants' website.

It was also alleged that spam messages promoting the software contained similar deceptive claims, failed to identify themselves as advertising, used false "from" lines, gave no valid postal addresses, and failed to provide consumers with notice of and the ability to "opt-out," in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act.

In March, SC Magazine reported the FTC shut down SpywareAssassin after an investigation revealed the product did not actually work.

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