- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
Media Contact for AG Healey Sues Melrose Couple for Scamming Consumers Through Tech Support Scheme
Boston — Attorney General Maura Healey has sued a Melrose couple for running a tech support scheme that charged unsuspecting consumers for repairs to fix nonexistent problems with their computers.
According to the AG’s complaint, VTech Software Solution Inc. and its owner Shalu Chawla and her husband Vishal Chawla violated Massachusetts Consumer Protection Law by using VTech Software to place deceptive online “pop-up” advertisements designed to mimic computer notifications warning of serious computer problems or viruses, then charging consumers for repairs to fix these illusory problems with their computers. This was part of a nationwide scheme that scammed consumers out of millions of dollars.
According to the complaint, an affiliated company operated by the Chawlas, Techmate Inc., also violated the law by cashing consumer checks without authorization. The Chawlas claim the two companies are no longer operating.
“This couple preyed upon residents in our state – many of them elderly – and tricked them into paying for computer repairs that didn’t exist,” said AG Healey. “As scammers get savvier, it’s more important than ever that consumers stay educated and reach out to our office for help. We have taken this action to shut down this company’s illegal practices and get money back to the people who were taken advantage of.”
On Nov. 27, 2019, the AG’s Office obtained an order from Suffolk Superior Court barring the Chawlas and their companies from transferring assets. The court also issued an order securing assets in their bank accounts and real estate in an effort to secure money for consumer restitution.
The AG’s Office began an investigation into the Chawlas and their companies after receiving a tip from the Federal Trade Commission. According to the AG’s complaint, VTech Software operated a scheme in which it pushed a pop-up window to a consumer’s computer informing them of a critical problem and directing them to call a 1-800 number to get tech support, which VTech Software often misrepresented was provided through Microsoft. The company then requested to remotely access the consumer’s computer, pretended to fix it, and asked for payment by way of a subscription for their support services ranging from around $200 to $3,000. Once the consumer paid, VTech Software then repeatedly called them to claim there were other problems with their computer and attempted to extract more money.
Through this scheme, VTech Software allegedly made numerous misrepresentations about the state of consumers’ computers, failed to disclose their prices until after a service was completed, and issued nonsensical receipts that prevented consumers from understanding what they actually paid for.
The AG’s lawsuit seeks injunctive relief, including restitution for consumers, and civil penalties.
The AG’s Office has set up a special phone line for victims of VTech Software and Techmate. If you believe you have lost money due to their scam, please call 617-963-2628.
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Jared Rinehimer and Brendan Jarboe, and Paralegals David Birch and Matthew Johnson, all of the AG’s Consumer Protection Division, with the assistance of Investigators Colleen Frost and Ciara Tran of the AG’s Civil Investigations Division.