The name iYogi will not be unfamiliar to you, if you’ve been following how the tech support scam has been evolving over the past few years.
In Fake Support, And Now Fake Product Support I described how a legitimate and ethical AV company outsourced its support to the iYogi company in India. This must have seemed at the time an entirely reasonable way of addressing a difficulty that faces security companies with a product version that is free to consumers: what happens when users of that product need support? Running a tech support operation is a significant cost even for companies that charge for all their products (time-limited trials excepted, of course). The idea was that Avast! customers would get free support for Avast!-related queries, but would then be offered an upgrade to a for-fee iYogi support package. However, the AV company’s understanding was that:
here at AVAST, we never phone our customers (unless they specifically ask us to of course) and none of the partners we work with do either.
Unfortunately, it seemed that iYogi’s understanding of the situation was rather different. According to Brian Krebs, reported incidents of tech support scam coldcalls from “Avast customer service” did indeed turn out to have originated with iYogi.
While someone describing himself as the co-founder and president of marketing at iYogi strongly denied any connection with the usual gang of out-and-out scammers, Avast! found it necessary to suspend its arrangement with the company. Avast!’s later arrangements for customer support are discussed on the company’s blog here.
iYogi’s recent activities seem to have continued to attract controversy. A recent article from Help Net Security tells us that Washington State has announced a lawsuit against iYogi, alleging that ‘iYogi’s tactics are unfair and deceptive business practices that violate Washington’s Consumer Protection Act.’ The activities in which the company is alleged to have engaged have a familiar ring, involving deceptive online advertisements, misleading ‘diagnostics’, aggressive selling of support plans and the company’s own anti-virus software. In a twist I haven’t encountered before, the Washington suit filed in King County Superior Court claims that:
iYogi tells the consumer that upgrading to Windows 10 from Windows 7 or 8 costs $199.00 if the upgrade is done independently, but that the upgrade is “included” for free as part of iYogi’s five-year service package or for $80 as part of iYogi’s one-year package. In fact, an upgrade to Windows 10 is free for Windows 7 or 8 users who choose to do so independently. In addition, iYogi incorrectly tells consumers that their computers will stop working if they do not upgrade to Windows 10 soon.
Help Net quotes Microsoft as estimating that 71,000 residents of Washington lose $33m each year, a sizeable proportion of the 3.3m Americans who are estimated to lose $1.5b in a year.