The FTC announced it has fined Office Depot $25M for scamming customers into buying malware removal services they never needed. The company that cooperated with the scam, Support.com, was also fined $10M, for a total of $35M. The two companies collaborated to charge Office Depot customers up to $300 for malware removal services. Office Depot also owns OfficeMax (the two companies merged in 2013).
From 2009 through 2016, Support.com provided Office Depot/OfficeMax with a “PC Health Check Program.” While it posed as a PC hardware diagnostics application, the actual purpose of the program was to sell consumers malware removal services. It also claimed to have detected infections when no infections were present. According to the FTC complaint “the PC Health Check Program did not, and by design, could not ‘find’ or ‘identify’ anything to return these results.”
Instead of actually performing any kind of scan, the utility was designed to claim that repairs were required if the consumer checked any one of four boxes indicating they were having generic problems with their computer.
The four problems presented were:
- “Frequent pop-ups or other problems prevent me from browsing the internet.”
- “My PC recently became much slower or is too slow to use.”
- “I am often warned of a virus infection or I am asked to pay for virus removal.”
- “My PC frequently crashes.”
No scans were ever performed on consumer PCs. If you checked one of those four boxes, the system scan would claim to have detected a malware infection automatically.The FTC complaint claims that the malware remediation services provided by Office Depot-OfficeMax could be more than $300 per service.