Johnathan Valdays has been looking to expand his Beloit-based computer business after experiencing six straight years of growth. However, it's not happening the way he had planned.
"We've had calls from Arizona, Florida, California, Utah, Maine," said Valdays, who runs Universal PC Services. "In reality, we can't do (anything) to stop that because the worst part is they say they're out of Colorado, but they're out of India. We know that."
"They" are UniversalPCServices.us.
Valdays' corporate, trademarked business identity has been stolen.
"They're just cold-calling people saying, ‘Let us into your computer and give us your money,'" he said. "They're trying to get you to pay them money to remove a virus from your computer that doesn't exist."
To protect his interests, he's called the Beloit Police Department, the Rock County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI's Cyber Crimes Unit, the Internet company that hosts the fraudulent company and the Better Business Bureau. While his Internet domain name has been valid for six years, his impersonator's just came online this month.
"All you can do is ride the rapids and make it as hard for them as possible to do this," he said. "That's what we're working on."
He's put a Scam Alert on his own site. He's convinced the imposter's Internet host to take down the site twice, but it's been moving around over the last week and was valid again on Monday morning.
"The scammers are very smart to not try to recreate the wheel," said Kimberly Hazen, who runs the southwest Wisconsin chapter of the Better Business Bureau. "If you really need a trustful business, why wouldn't you just steal somebody's? We’re seeing a huge upswing in this.”
Hazen said consumers and business owners can learn from this. She encouraged everyone to put a Google Alert on their name, so they will be alerted every time their name shows up online. She also recommends never giving control of your computer to a stranger.
Besides the claims to fix a nonexistent virus, the scammers using Valdays's company's name are also claiming to be from Microsoft. They tell consumers they've noticed their computer has illegally downloaded material and the FBI will be there to confiscate their computer unless they pay $99.
Valdays is continuing with his plans to expand to Lake Geneva and, maybe Rockford, expecting his one-on-one service and relationships with consumers to help. He hopes this is just a bump in the road.
"I'm not going to let some guy, somewhere, sitting behind a computer destroy everything," he said. "Not going to happen. I won't go down without a fight."