Tampa, Florida -- Federal investigators have cracked down on computer rental companies they say installed software to spy on customers, access their personal information, and secretly watch them with webcams.
A Tampa business is named in the case being called an "offensive violation privacy."
But experts say protecting yourself isn't easy. The Federal Trade Commission says this case involves seven companies renting out computers.
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Colortyme, on North Florida Avenue in Tampa, is one of them.The business rents furniture, televisions, and computers.
The FTC alleges the companies installed computer software exposing passwords for bank accounts, credit cards, email addresses, and social media sites.
The FTC also says the software company provided the businesses with access to webcam pictures of children, partially undressed adults, and intimate activities.
"I don't like that at all," said Colortyme customer Bobby Julien. "If I would have known that I would never got anything from them."
An attorney for the Tampa franchise, J.A.G. Rents, LLC told 10 News, "the software was only used about 20 times over a three year period. It was never used to spy on anyone, only to recover lost equipment."
Jacob Lott, an expert with the Computer Doctors store, located on Gandy Boulevard in Tampa, says customers can be nearly defenseless in a situation like this.
"The company can put any number of programs on there that you'll never know about," Lott explained.
He advises checking the computer's antivirus software to see if anything has been excluded from scanning, or checking keyloggers that may be tracking you, or look to see if a webcam has a light setting switched to off, which would be a red flag.
"You are absolutely trusting that the person renting the computer is honest and reputable," Lott said.
In this latest case, the FTC has banned Colortyme and the other businesses named from using the software again.
The FTC is looking for public comment on the case.To contact the agency directly go here:http://ftc.gov/opa/2012/09/designware.shtm