FTC Brings Office Depot Fines and a Strong Warning to Other Companies

Services for Real Estate Pros with IDTheftSecurity.com Inc

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that Office Depot, along with a tech support firm, must come up with $35 million to settle a lawsuit over claims that both organizations were part of a computer repair service scam, which involved a fake malware scan.

In the FTC complaint, it was stated that Office Depot, OfficeMax, and Support.com ran a program called PC Health Check. This program is designed to search for malware on a customer’s computer. However, it actually doesn’t quite do that. Instead, it gives the customer a questionnaire, and then it uses the answers given by the respondent to flag some malware…even though malware might not have even been on the computer.

Some of the questions asked by the PC Health Check program included asking if the computer was slow, if it had a lot of pop-up ads, or if it crashed a lot. When the person clicked “yes,” to these questions, the software prompted them to buy fixes for the issues, which could cost hundreds of dollars.

Additionally, the complaint alleges that Office Depot and OfficeMax told their store employees to run PC Health Check on every computer that was brought into the store. In total, it is estimated that there were tens of millions of dollars lost in this scam.

On top of this, it is alleged that this scheme went on from 2009 until late 2016. It was only stopped when KIRO 7, a CBS-affiliate, began looking into it after viewers started reporting complaints about the program. Employees were also upset, and the FTC shared an incident from 2012 in its report. It said that an employee complained to upper management and said that they could not keep “lying to a customer” or be subject to being “tricked into lying” just so their store could “make a few extra dollars.”

If all of this wasn’t enough, the complaint also alleges that Office Depot advised its stores to never run a PC Health Check on any computer that had been repaired, because the program would still report malware, even though there was none on the machine. In other words, Office Depot knew that the program would flag malware even if there wasn’t malware on the computer.

Because of this scam, Office Depot will have to pay $25 million and Support.com must pay $10 million to settle with the FTC. The agency says that it will use the money to repay people who were victims of this scheme. Joe Simons, FTC Chairman, said in a statement that this should “send a strong message” to any other companies that might be considering this type of deception to trick people into buying services that they might not really need.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.


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Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Los Angeles Pasadena 818.516.4393

Hello Robert - Scary but attention-grabbing.  Who can you trust?  

Carol Williams - A Second Chance Saturday candidate.  

Apr 23, 2019 03:20 PM #1
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Robert- Office Depot has its HQ in South Florida!  And that they would do this is disgusting. 

Apr 23, 2019 05:48 PM #2
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker, Blackstone Realty Group - brokered by eXp Realty - Kalispell, MT
The House Kat

That's a terrible way to make money.

May 04, 2019 03:04 AM #3
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Good morning Robert -  I have always suspected this scan programs but surprised such a well know name engaged in it.

May 04, 2019 04:00 AM #4
Nina Hollander
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Charlotte, NC
Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor

Oh wow, Robert. I had not heard this till now. I've always avoided such services from companies like this and now I'm glad that I did.

May 04, 2019 04:30 AM #5
John Henry, Florida Architect
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

Something I suspected.  WOW.

May 04, 2019 12:40 PM #6
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

You expect that this kind of thing would be coming from foreign sources - or at least from people in the shadows. That it came from a name that should have been trusted is truly scary.

What other well-known company is similarly crooked?

May 04, 2019 09:41 PM #7
Mike Cooper, GRI
Cornerstone Business Group Inc - Winchester, VA
Your Neighborhood Real Estate Sales Pro

Robert, that is scary stuff. I'm sure a lot of people were sucked into the deception, and shame on those who perpetrated it. 

May 05, 2019 08:24 AM #8
Kimo Jarrett
WikiWiki Realty - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

Wonder if the stockholders will take any action and punish the executives who approved and executed these fraudulent activities?

May 06, 2019 05:50 PM #9
Carolyn Roland-Historic Homes For Sale In Delaware and S. Chester County PA
Patterson-Schwartz Real Estate - Wilmington, DE
Carolyn Roland, GRI, CRS

I think we may have one Office Depot left in our area. Glad they are getting what they deserve!

May 06, 2019 07:12 PM #10
Lynn B. Friedman
Atlanta Homes ODAT Realty Call/Text 404-939-2727 Buckhead - Midtown - Westside -- and more ... - Atlanta, GA
Concierge Service for Our Atlanta Sellers & Buyers

Robert Siciliano 
YUP!!!! Very disappointing behavior. Actually didn't go to Office Depot tonight when I needed to spend about $100 on a new piece of equipment. Have to decide what to do because I need it!!!! Lynn

May 06, 2019 08:42 PM #11
Ron Aguilar
Continental Mortgage - Saint George, UT
Mortgage & Real Estate Advisor since 1995

thanks for the story, I was not aware of this. I have always been leery of those wanting to speed up my PC or anthing else.

May 07, 2019 07:37 AM #12
John Wiley
Fort Myers, FL
Lee County, FL, ECO Broker, GRI, SRES,GREEN,PSA

Thanks for the heads up.

Greed is such a tempter. Sorry to hear that one of the big names has fallen to that temptation. That is a sizable penalty. I will be careful with whom I do business.

May 08, 2019 02:04 PM #13
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