I recently did a bit of house-call tech support for a friend of a colleague – helping with backing up files and the like. The user was having me check her antivirus programs on her laptop and desktop and happened to mention that she had “Pairsys Antivirus” on her computer as well. My curiosity was piqued – I had never heard of this company before, and I thought I’d heard of most reputable antivirus vendors out there… perhaps they weren’t so reputable.
She showed me the executable on her desktop, and where it was installed. I double clicked it to see what it would do…a progress bar appeared briefly, and told me that it “could not connect to the update server.” No splash screen, no antivirus dashboard, no nothing…it appeared to be a remote support application, and the Pairsys website seemed to point to that being the case.
I asked her how she found out about this software; who had recommended it to her – at first it seemed like a colleague or a friend from water aerobics had told her about it, but then as she thought back on it, it actually had been an Indian man who approached her while at the Capitol Lakes Senior Center near the Capitol building as she was waiting for her aerobics to start. He struck up a conversation with her (hmm) and eventually the talk turned to eBooks (hmmmm!) and then eventually to computers…and security (hmmmmmmm!). Apparently he recommended the software and spelled out its name for her, but didn’t press her too hard on it…no hard sell. But a few weeks later she had some computer problems (prior to having me recommended to her by my associate) and she then looked up the website the man had recommended.
Apparently she was sold the “Platinum Security Package” for $250 and a technician named “Joy” worked with her. That basically seems to be all the software does…sits there and if you have problems, apparently a technician remotely connects to your computer and assists you. Supposedly. If you trust them to do that.
I immediately thought back to an article I’d read on Ars Technica a few months ago about scammers cold-calling people to tell them that they were “from Windows” and that “your computer has viruses and errors that we can fix for you!” and then charging them a couple hundred bucks and doing a remote login (if you let them).
To me, this seems even more worrisome…if you can send a smooth-talking guy to a senior center to casually pimp your software to targets directly, you might be able to get more sales than with an indirect and impersonal phone call.
My user told me this morning, however, that after we uninstalled the Pairsys “remote support” software, she gave them a call and asked for her money back, and got $150 of it returned at least…after threatening to bring the Better Business Bureau and the police in to inquire as to their business methods. A more-or-less happy ending for her at least…but that guy that she spoke to at the senior center is still out there potentially, finding more marks.
I asked her to get a business card or more information from him if she sees him there again, and then pass it on to me…I’d like to have a word with him on the phone and find out a little bit more about the operation and what, precisely, they’re selling. After that, I’ll make some calls to the senior centers around the city and make sure that they’re warned about characters like this ambling in to take advantage of their patrons and visitors.