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Sammsoft sued over free PC virus scan fraud

Monday, February 20, 2012 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: virus scan, software, fraud

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(NaturalNews) A lawsuit filed against software firm Sammsoft alleges the computer company pulled the ultimate bait-and-switch by designing free software that exaggerated computer errors in order to trap users into buying the full product.

In his federal class-action suit, James LaGarde charged that Sammsoft's Advanced Registry Optimizer program dubiously embellished the existence and severity of supposed computer errors, all while performing a "free" search of his and other users' computers.

Preying on ignorance

Here's how it works. According to LaGarde's suit, the company allows users to download a trial version of the Advanced Registry Optimizer program, which then conducts a free scan of the host computer. Naturally, the program finds hundreds of "errors" that the program can fix, but in order to repair them all past the first 100 errors, a user must buy the full product first at a cost of $29.95.

Most customers don't have the technical expertise to know whether or not such programs have really identified legitimate errors, so in essence, the company is preying on helpless consumers to make sales to fix problems that don't necessarily exist, the suit charged. Users who downloaded the program believed it was genuine, but Sammsoft "betrayed that trust, and as a result, millions of consumers have been tricked into paying for its Advanced Registry Optimizer software," the suit said.

LaGarde's not the only one who's allegedly been duped. According to the lawsuit, Sammsoft boasts that over 10 million people have downloaded its software.

Seeing trouble where none exists

The suit, which was filed on behalf of a class of other people who purchased Advanced Registry Optimizer in the U.S. based on misrepresentations, "alleges breach of contract and express and implied warranties and unjust enrichment," Courthouse News Service reported.

LaGarde's suit claims that the program embellished not only the number and severity of errors but also the stability of each computer system and its security status, "regardless of the actual condition of the computer to induce the consumer to purchase the software."

The suit also charges that Sammsoft lulls users who buy the program outright without first trying the free trial scan are lulled into a "false sense of security" that the software is accurately and completely repairing and protecting the computer on which it is installed. The actual product, "stripped of these artifices, is much less than reflected in its purchase price," or is worth much less, the suit charges.

Sammsoft just following the herd?

LaGarde's suit is similar to one filed by Microsoft and the state of Washington in 2008 against similar "scareware" purveyors. In that suit, http://voices.washingtonpost.com, accusing the firm of causing targeted computers to pop up misleading security warnings about alleged security threats on the victim's PC.

The alerts said targeted PC's were "damaged and corrupted," and instructed hapless users to visit a particular Web site to purchase the fix a program called Registry Cleaner XP for $39.95.

"We're absolutely certain that consumers across the country have been deeply affected by this," Paula Selis, who heads the attorney general's consumer protection unit, said at the time.

In a separate suit, Microsoft filed five "John Doe" lawsuits pertaining to "the identities of individuals responsible for marketing other scareware products, including such titles as Antivirus 2009, Malwarecore, WinDefender, WinSpywareProtect and XPDefender," the Washington Post reported.

The products used a variety of methods to trick users into believing their computers were damaged or at risk of a virus or other security breach, in order to get them to purchase one of the products in question.

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