Just like legitimate software companies, cyber scammers are experimenting with online services supported by human intelligence.
Symantec reports that those behind the fake antivirus software known as Live PC Care have added a new social engineering element -- live support agents who will try to convince potential victims that their PCs are infected and that payment is the cure.
The Live PC Care "virus scan" screen now includes a yellow online support button that affords those reluctant to part with their money the opportunity to banter with fraud support.
"If a potential victim clicks on the online support button they are brought to a live support chat session," said Symantec security researcher Peter Coogan in a blog post. "The authors of Live PC Care have taken advantage of a legitimate freeware live chat system called LiveZilla. This system allows Live PC Care victims to chat online with so-called 'support agents.'"
Based on the interactions between Symantec researchers and the live support people, Coogan says that there really are people answering questions, and not automated scripts. Their goal, he says, is to allay suspicions and encourage the belief that the fake malware detected needs to be repaired.
Coogan says that the involvement of live support people shows just how big the business of fake antivirus scams has become.
Symantec says that between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009, 250 different fake antivirus programs made 43 million installation attempts.
The company says that the cost of being victimized can go beyond the $30 to $100 price for useless software to include additional fraud arising from credit card theft.