You’ve read our blog posts debunking phone-based tech support scams and software license expiration scams. These are some of the most lucrative frauds perpetrated on individuals easily confused with computer tech talk. But even our ID Watchdog team was stunned to hear that Office Depot tech support crews may be perpetrating a similar scam at locations around the US!
News of this fraud first aired on KIRO-TV in Seattle. A whistleblower alert and a subsequent undercover report indicated that Office Depot’s PC Health Check service might be reporting malware where none existed.
Tipped off to a potential fraud, reporter Jesse Jones took six new laptops to stores in WA and OR. In the majority of cases, the undercover laptop owner was told he/she needed a tune-up or more. The services cost $99 or $169. Subsequent checks by computer security firms indicated no malware was found.
The company has said it runs PC Health Check an average of 6,000 times per week. That would ring up at least $600,000 in sales weekly if each owner took the firm’s recommendation.
Since reports started airing several days ago, Office Depot has suspended the PC Health Check service while it investigates. That’s all the company has said so far, and officedepot.com has no notification of the suspension.
A store manager told KIRO that each employee had personal sales goals and “pressure to hit these sales goals is immense.”
According to several sources, computer users were asked four questions before the check. If you indicated you received popups, experienced slow speeds or answered yes to any question, fee-based services were automatically recommended.
It is possible that PC Health Check simply detected trialware or freeware installed on computers at the manufacturer pre-shipment. These can generate pop-ups or slow down operations if they’re constantly running in the background. However, the KIRO report indicates that high-pressure sales were being rung up using the term malware and that would be sales generated under false pretenses.
Office Depot follows a lengthy code of conduct. The company states, “We always tell the whole truth.”
It will be interesting to see whether the firm will offer refunds as a result of this incident. If you’re a recent service customer who owns a PC, please save all receipts to document any potential claim.