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A California man has agreed to pay $25,000 to settle charges he dished out misleading advertisements that duped computer users into buying unneeded software they were told would fix critical operating system errors.

HoanVinh V. Nguyenphuoc is the owner of FixWinReg, which used a Windows feature known as Net Send to display alerts billed as important security bulletins. These were rigged to look like internal OS notices, according to court documents. The messages claimed there were errors in the Windows registry that could result in data loss or corruption unless fixed immediately.

The bogus warnings directed users to download a free trial version of software that would report "critical errors", even on machines that had no registry problems. The program claimed the errors could be repaired if users spent $30 for a full version of the program.

In February, Washington state Attorney General Rob McKenna sued Nguyenphuoc and other defendants, claiming the ads violated state laws concerning spyware and unfair business practices. The complaint sought penalties of $2,000 per violation.

Given that Nguyenphuoc's scheme is alleged to have fleeced "hundreds" of Washington state consumers, it's hard to see the $25,000 payment as anything other than a slap on the wrist.

On the other hand, the settlement permanently barred from using Net Send in any advertisement, to use any form of ad that simulates a security message or misrepresent risks that any product or service is designed to fix. ®

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