Let’s step into the world of a modern-day high-tech entrepreneur who became a millionaire off unsuspecting suckers, not once but twice. But as good as he was, he was also bad. He was tagged by the Federal Trade Commission, not once but twice, 10 years apart on two different kinds of computer schemes.
His latest fine? $29 million.
Even the Texas attorney general’s office, not known for massive crackdowns on high-tech con artists, took a bite out of this man’s backside.
His name is Cashier Myricks Jr., the best name for a story like this. I wrote to him, but he didn’t answer.
This week I talked to Cashier briefly by phone. The Southern California man told me he was in a restaurant and he’d call back. He never did. But I can tell you about him anyway.
If you want to judge a man by his cars, which is a big thing in SoCal, know that Cashier owned a 2012 Bentley AND a 2013 Range Rover. No more.
Go back a decade. He was an up-and-comer who in the early 2000s hosted a website that promised music lovers in the age of Napster that we could download music for free without regard to that nasty little detail of copyright.
Cashier’s MP3DownloadCity.com sold tips (for $24.95) on how to download music files, video games and “movies still in theaters.”
His marketing materials boasted: “Napster’s Number One Replacement Software” and “Best of all, people are not getting sued for using our software. Yes! It is 100 percent legal.”
Only it wasn’t.
The FTC ordered Cashier to give refunds to 600 customers at a cost of around $15,000, a small portion of his vast clientele of taken teens. Small beans compared to what was coming next.
$120 million in sales
Now a decade later, Cashier is a two-time loser with the FTC. Quite a feat. Imagine how many computer schemers are out there, and how few get taken down. But Cashier got too big. Authorities say his personal computer products may have been a charade, but he still managed to make at least $120 million in sales.
Cashier’s ride to riches was his company, NetCom3 Global, which offered products called PC Antivirus Pro, PC Cleaner LTE & PRO and Real-Time PC Optimizer. He sold through websites such as pccleaners.com, pc-cleaners.com and pccleanerpro.com.
If you own a computer, how he did this might ring a bell of familiarity. You fear you have a virus or your PC is running slow. You search the web for software to help. If you download Cashier’s product as a free trial, his software scans your system and gives results: Your computer is rotting under the weight of thousands of threats, errors, problems, issues and concerns.
Removal cost $29.95 for one product, or $49.95 for another.
The Texas attorney general’s consumer protection lawyers said in court papers that even new computers fresh out of the box reported thousands of threats using Cashier’s products. Such fakery.
If customers called tech support, as they were instructed to do after the download, they were sold monthly $20 subscriptions and repair calls costing $250.
The FTC and attorneys general in Florida and Texas say it was all a ruse.
In Texas, Cashier settled the state’s lawsuit against him by agreeing to pay $20,000.
For the Florida and FTC cases, his fine is much steeper, listed as $29.5 million, with all but $258,000 of it “suspended.” If he had failed to sell his 2012 Bentley and 2013 Range Rover and downgrade his lifestyle, he’d have to pay the rest.
Where are we?
After all this, Cashier doesn’t go to jail (he hasn’t been charged criminally). He doesn’t even shut down his businesses. You can get yourself some PC Cleaner Pro right now on the internet. It’s available in 13 countries, too. His websites remain active.
When you look at his slick websites, there’s no clue that the owner is a rare two-time FTC loser.
The only way to know is to research the products beforehand and find news reports such as this about Cashier and his company troubles (which is why I list his products and his websites for future findings).
How will Texas monitor the company to make sure it behaves? According to the agreed final judgment, mystery shoppers working for the state will periodically call the company and test whether the sales and support staff operates in or out of bounds.
If it doesn’t sound like much of a punishment, it isn’t. But hey, it’s better than what usually happens to these guys — which is nothing.
Do it yourself, for free
Watchdog Nation advice: You can find excellent anti-virus software and other utility tools for free. For example, I use free Windows Defender, which comes as part of Microsoft’s operating system for Windows 8 and higher. For older Windows products, it’s called Microsoft Security Essentials. Both are excellent, and regular updates are free.
I supplement my protection with the free version of Malwarebytes, which also gives free updates.
My computer guy, Scott Green, teaches that when researching products, start and then stay on trustworthy, expert websites such as PCmag.com for recommendations and product descriptions.