According to PCMag The FTC is on a roll this week. After banning four companies for making billions of robocalls, the commission has now fined Office Depot and Support.com $35 million for tricking consumers into paying for malware repairs based on how they answered a question.

Office Depot and Support.com worked together using a piece of software called PC Health Check which offered to check a consumer’s PC for security threats including viruses and malware. If a threat was found, Support.com offered to repair it remotely for a fee. The health check scan generated tens of millions of dollars in revenue for Support.com from Office Depot.

The problem is, the software informed users it had detected malware based on how they answered a question rather than the results of the scan. The question asked was “Does your computer have any of the problems below?” with the four presented tick box options being as follows:

  • Frequent pop-ups or other problems prevent me from browsing the internet.
  • My PC recently became much slower or it 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.

A tick box was present next to each answer and the FTC found that ticking any of the four resulted in the user being told symptoms of malware had been detected. The scan didn’t matter and had no link to the user being told of potential malware on their system. The message was accompanied by “view recommendations” which is where repair services were offered to fix the malware symptoms. Users were asked to pay hundreds of dollars and many paid due to the obvious concern generated by being told their system was infected.

As well as configuring the PC Health Check software to deceive consumers, complaints had been made to and clearly ignored by Office Depot as far back as 2012. The FTC reports that an OfficeMax employee complained to corporate management, stating, “I cannot justify lying to a customer or being TRICKED into lying to them for our store to make a few extra dollars.” Office Depot continued to advertise and use the PC Health Check software until 2016

We also had customers coming in this week who were reacting to a fake warning about an IP address conflict and were asked to pay thousands of dollars.

If you are not sure if you have a problem we recommend bringing it in to Impress Computers for a free health check. Honest people- with honest answers