On Tuesday, Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna announced that the state has settled a spyware lawsuit with Zhijian Chen of Portland, Ore., and Chen will pay almost $84,000 in restitution for allegedly marketing fake anti-spyware services via e-mail, the Associated Press reports via Boston.com.
The settlement is Washington’s first in its premier lawsuit under the state’s new anti-spyware act, passed last year, according to the AP.
“Let this be a warning to other online advertisers—when you attempt to harm or deceive, you will pay in Washington,” McKenna said in a statement, according to the AP. “We will not tolerate those who try to profit by preying on consumers’ fears of spyware and other malware.”
The settlement comes on the heels of a five-month investigation by officials within McKenna’s consumer protection high-tech group in which it was determined that Chen made profits in the thousands of dollars by distributing e-mails meant to trick people into believing their computers were infected with viruses or other malware that could be easily fixed with Secure Computer’s “spyware cleanser,” the AP reports.
White Plains, N.Y.-based Secure Computer was named as the main defendant in the lawsuit, filed last January, according to the AP. The lawsuit says Paul E. Burke, Secure Computer’s president, and Gary T. Preston made more than $100,000 selling their “spyware cleanser” since the summer of 2004, according to the AP.
Burke’s wife Wendy, Seth Traub and Manoj Kumar were also named in the suit, because they and Chen allegedly marketed the Secure Computer product via e-mail in exchange for a 75 percent commission on every $49.95 sale, the AP reports.
Some of the advertisements featured Microsoft’s name, and they flashed alerts falsely warning users that their computers were infected, according to the AP.
“Our spyware act not only protects consumers from spyware purveyors,” McKenna said, according to the AP. “It also makes it illegal to persuade someone to download software by misrepresenting that a program is necessary for security or privacy.”
Chen will dish out $16,000 as compensation to consumers who purchased the “spyware cleanser” via a message he distributed, as well as $24,000 in civil penalties and almost $44,000 in legal fees, the AP reports.
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