Bogus Spyware Operators Settle with FTC

Gretchen Gallen
WASHINGTON – Looking down the barrel of a $2 million forfeiture in ill-gotten gains, two anti-spyware operators have agreed to settle charges with the Federal Trade Commission that their services were bogus and violated federal law.

According to an FTC report, Spyware Assassin, its affiliates, and Trustsoft both promoted spyware detection products that either did not work or did not work as advertised. Both companies would conduct “scans” claiming to detect illegal spyware on a user’s computer, which was then remedied by selling the customer anti-spyware software for $29.95.

Spyware Assassin was first accused of fraudulent business practices in March 2005. The FTC charged at the time that the company and its affiliates used websites, email, banner ads and popups to drive consumers to the Spyware Assassin website where the bogus scans would take place.

According to the FTC, one set of Spyware Assassin defendants will be barred from selling or marketing any anti-spyware products or services in the future.

In June 2005, the FTC charged Trustsoft with using similar tactics to sell its SpyKiller software. The FTC alleged the defendants sent popup and email messages informing consumers that their computers had been remotely scanned and that spyware had been detected, even though defendants had not performed any such scans.

The FTC’s complaint alleged that the anti-spyware software that both companies sold did not remove all or substantially all spyware, and the defendants’ deceptive claims violate the FTC Act, which bars deceptive claims.

Spyware Assassin owner Thomas L. Delanoy and his corporation, MaxTheater Inc., will pay $76,000 -- the full amount of consumer injury. The settlement will ban the defendants from selling or marketing any anti-spyware products in the future.

Trustsoft owner Danilo Ladendoft will pay approximately $1.9 million to settle the FTC charges. The settlement will prohibit them from making deceptive claims in the sale, marketing, advertising, or promotion of any goods or services and prohibits the specific misrepresentations used in promoting SpyKiller.

U.S. District Courts ordered a halt to the deceptive practices of both operations, pending trials. The settlements announced today end those lawsuits.