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December 17, 2015

Tech support firm that promised 300 jobs in Maine sued for allegedly scamming customers

Washington state sued an India-based tech support company that announced over the summer it would bring 300 jobs to Lewiston, saying the firm routinely scams customers into buying unneeded software and services.

The Associated Press reported that Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed the lawsuit against the U.S. operations of iYogi, which says it has more than 3 million customers across 11 countries.

In July, iYogi and Argo Marketing Group in Lewiston announced a partnership at a press conference with Gov. Paul LePage. iYogi said it planned to open its first U.S. technical support center, which would be operated by Argo in Lewiston and employ 300 people.

But due to “numerous business reasons,” Argo terminated the contract after three months, Argo CEO Jason Levesque told Mainebiz on Thursday. Levesque said Argo is also suing iYogi in New York in an attempt to collect money owed to Argo by the tech support firm.

The 300 jobs never materialized, but Levesque said Argo hired more than 30 people as a result of the contract, and those people are still employed at the company.

As part of Washington attorney general investigation, the office found that iYogi representatives, after taking remote control of customers’ computers, will often aggressively try to sell software or upgrades the customers don’t need.

iYogi associates itself with major technology companies such as Microsoft, Apple and HP in online ads, and claims to provide support services on behalf of whatever company the consumer calls about, according to the Washington AG’s office.

Representatives will identify harmless but complex-looking files and claim the files are infected and harming the computers. Then iYogi representatives tell customers they need to buy tech support plan to fix the non-existent problems, with plans costing $150 to $380. They also try to sell consumers iYogi’s antivirus software for up to $80, even if existing antivirus software is already installed.

Microsoft's chief legal officer, Brad Smith, said at the new conference in Washington announcing the suit that iYogi is one of the companies that Microsoft receives the most complaints about, the AP reported.

An iYogi representative declined to comment to the AP.

The complaint also names the iYogi’s co-founder and president, Vishal Dhar of New York, as a defendant.

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