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FTC: Consumers caught in alleged multimillion dollar computer malware 'deception'

Office Depot, software supplier fined $35 million

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(Shutterstock/CNNMONEY)

Thousands of consumers were “tricked” in an alleged national malware detection repair scheme orchestrated by Florida-based Office Depot, Inc. and  California software supplier, Support.com, according to the FTC.

Investigators said the alleged sales scheme began in 2009 and resulted in a trail of evidence that led to a total of $35 million in fines against the two companies.

FTC attorney Clair Wack told News 6 Thursday that customers were charged up to $300 for repairs that were never needed.

“The FTC has conducted a thorough investigation,” Wack said. “As we allege in our complaint, consumers would bring their laptops into Office Depot stores thinking they were getting a free PC check."

Wack said a four-question checklist would determine what virus or computer malware was allegedly found and reported to consumers “regardless of what the scan actually detected.”

It is not clear how many consumers in Central Florida paid for the bogus repairs, according to Wack.

Office Depot has agreed to pay $25 million while its software supplier, Support.com, Inc., has agreed to pay $10 million as part of their settlements with the FTC. The FTC intends to use these funds to provide refunds to consumers.

“Consumers have a hard enough time protecting their computers from malware, viruses, and other threats,” FTC Chairman Joe Simons said. “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.”

Wack told News 6 she could not discuss specifics of the investigation but confirmed consumers were “deceived into paying millions of dollars for computer repair services for years.”

The FTC said any consumer who believes they may have been deceived by Office Depot Inc., should
file a complaint here.
 


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