Office Depot computer scans gave fake results

By Bridget Small

Most of us manage basic computer safety on our own. We keep security software and firewalls up to date, and ignore pesky pop-up ads about computer health. Many of us would gladly take advantage of a free computer tune-up from a big-name retailer. We wouldn’t suspect the tune-up might be a tech support scam.

But according to a recent FTC complaint, that’s exactly what happened at Office Depot and OfficeMax stores. Many customers who took their computers in for a free “PC Health Check” at Office Depot or OfficeMax stores between 2009 and November 2016 were told their computers had malware symptoms or infections — but that wasn’t true. The FTC says Office Depot and OfficeMax ran PC Health Check, a diagnostic scan program created and licensed by Support.com, that tricked those consumers into thinking their computers had symptoms of malware or actual “infections,” even though the scan hadn’t found any such issues. Many consumers who got false scan results bought computer diagnostic and repair services from Office Depot and OfficeMax that cost up to $300. Suppport.com completed the services and got a cut of each purchase.

Office Depot, Inc. and Support.com, Inc. have both agreed to proposed settlements with the FTC to resolve the FTC’s allegations. This press release has details about the terms of the proposed settlements. The companies will be prohibited from making various deceptive claims and will also turn over a total of $35 million to the FTC, which the FTC expects to use for refunds. If the FTC can give refunds, we will publish another blog with details.

The FTC has information to help you manage security online. Read about ways to keep your computer security up to date. Learn how to avoid, discover, and get rid of malware that may download viruses onto your computer or cause it to crash. If you find malware was installed on your computer, you can report it to the FTC at www.ftc.gov/complaint.