I’m lucky to be building a loyal base of customers who come to me looking for help with their computer.   They trust me to give them advice and fix their computer when needed, but what do you do when there isn’t similar service locally?

Well in the US, one of those options was Office Depot, with subsidiary Office Max and its service provider support.com.   You could take your computer to them, and they’d run a quick scan to find out if your computer had any issues.   Or at least that’s what they told you.

If you took your computer to them, they’d offer to run a program called PC Health Check.   This program asked the customer a series of questions, such as “does your computer run slowly”, “has it crashed recently”.    It would then run a scan and report what it had found.

However, the FTC have recently fined Office Depot $35 million because this program was a fraud, designed to convince customers there was a problem when there really wasn’t.

Based on the questions asked, it would then run a fake scan and report that it’d found problems.  You’d then be charged by Office Depot to have the computer cleaned regardless of if there were any viruses on there!   These services would run to hundreds of dollars each.

Office Depot instructed staff to “to offer to run the PC Health Check Program on every computer that a consumer brought into a store.”

This software was used from 2009 until November 2016 when the practice was uncovered.

In-fact Office Depot instructed staff not the then run the program again after the expensive service, as it would still report a problem!

Office Depot provided the following statement in March 2019:

“Office Depot’s settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) resolves an investigation relating to a computer diagnostic service that was offered to Office Depot and OfficeMax customers prior to December 2016. The proposed consent order, which has been filed with the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, provides for a judgment in favor of the FTC in the amount of $25 million to provide equitable relief for affected customers. While Office Depot does not admit to any wrongdoing regarding the FTC’s allegations, the company believes that the settlement is in its best interest in order to avoid protracted litigation.”

I’m sure there are big box stores with staff who really do their best to help, but with scams like this which are pushed on staff from management, it’s hard to know who to trust.

One employee interviewed by the FTC stated that they’d told management “I cannot justify lying to a customer or being TRICKED into lying to them for our store to make a few extra dollars.”

I’ve seen plenty of examples where people have ended up buying more than they needed due to pushy sales tactics at these types of stores.  Things do seem to be improving due to the competition with online sales, but this story all goes to show – trust the local IT guy!