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Office Depot has to pay the FTC $35 million for fake malware scans

Office Depot has to pay the FTC $35 million for fake malware scans
[Photo: M.O. Stevens/Wikimedia Commons]

If Office Depot and/or OfficeMax said your computer had malware, they may have scammed you–and you may be entitled to a refund.

Office Depot and software firm Support.com have agreed to pay $35 million to settle U.S. Federal Trade Commission allegations that the companies tricked consumers into buying computer repair services that were unnecessary, the agency said on Wednesday.

According to the FTC, the trick went something like this: People would bring their computers to Office Depot for a PC Health Check. The Office Depot team would ask whether the computer ran slow, received virus warnings, crashed often, or displayed pop-up ads or other problems that prevented the user from browsing the internet. If the answer was yes to any of the questions, Office Depot would run a “scan” that would miraculously always blame malware for the problems the user reported having, and then charge the consumers up to $300 to clean up the computer. Support.com would then complete the services and get a cut of each purchase. The FTC claims that all that those malware scans were deceptive and bogus; consumers unfairly forked over cash to clean up nonexistent problems.

Now, Office Depot will pay $25 million, and Support.com will pay $10 million for allegedly deceiving customers by claiming software had found malware symptoms on their computers, the FTC said, adding that both Office Depot and Support.com have been aware of concerns and complaints about the PC Health Check program since at least 2012.

“Consumers have a hard enough time protecting their computers from malware, viruses, and other threats,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons in a statement. “This case should send a strong message to companies that they will face stiff consequences if they use deception to trick consumers into buying costly services they may not need.”

The agency said it intends to use the money to provide refunds to consumers.

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