Microsoft and the Attorney General's office in Washington announced they've filed several lawsuits over pop-up ads that tricks consumers into paying for software that supposedly fixes critical errors on a PC:
The lawsuit filed by the Attorney General's office alleges a Texas firm sent incessant pop-up ads that falsely claimed the computer had critical errors in its registry and directed people to a Web site where they could download free scanning software to find the problems.
The software then reports 43 critical problems and offers to sell a fix for $39.95. However, the software, dubbed "Registry Cleaner XP," does nothing but lull the consumer into a false sense of security, officials said.
It's a "blatant rip off of consumers," Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna said in a news conference. Consumers were "duped into downloading a fake scan (of the computer) and then duped into paying for software they don't need."
The pop-ups take advantage of a function called Windows Messenger (not to be confused with Microsoft's instant-messaging program Windows Live messenger) that was designed to allow network administrators to send alerts to Windows PCs on a network. The functionality was turned off in Windows XP Service Pack 2, said Richard Boscovich, senior attorney for Microsoft's Internet Safety Enforcement Team.
The messages often would be displayed repeatedly, with one IP address receiving more than 200 in one day, the complaint alleges.