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SCAM ALERT: Office Depot and OfficeMax caught claiming out-of-box PCs showed “symptoms of malware”

An investigation was conducted by KIRO TV News and here is what they have found.

Could you believe that they sold unneeded fixes for $180? Yes that is true.

Office Depot and its sister retailer OfficeMax have stopped using a technically dubious piece of malware-scanning software after two news services caught the stores recommending costly fixes for PC infections that didn’t exist.

The investigation showed that four out of six stores in Seattle and Portland, Oregon claimed that their brand new and out of the box PC’s have manifested symptoms of malware. And they were being charged $180 for repairs and protection. Take note of this, the said computers have never been connected to the internet and literally brand new out of the box. The diagnostics was performed by the security firm IOActive.

There was a separate TV News team from WFXT in Boston reported the same free scanning service OfficeMax offers similarly and alas, it misdiagnosed 2 out of 3 as infected.

Officials at Office Depot, the parent company that operates both chains, said they are suspending use of software known as PC Health Check for scanning customers’ computers for malware. The officials went on to say they didn’t condone the conduct reported by the TV news organizations and have undertaken a review of the assertions.

Here is what the researchers from IOActive have told KIRO:

“PC Health Check automatically signals a malware problem when store employees check any one of four boxes indicating that a customer has experienced pop-up problems, slow speeds, virus warnings, or random shutdowns”

“When any four of them is checked [in] any combination and single, as long as one of those boxes is checked you will see the malware symptoms in the report,” Derek Held, the IOActive researcher, was quoted as saying. “It didn’t matter anything else that was on the report. It was automatic that made it show up on the report.”

PC Health Check is sold by Support.com, which is a company that partnered with AOL.

Support.com agreed to pay $8.5 million in 2013 to settle a lawsuit alleging that they misrepresented the results of free malware scans and then charged fees to fix the non-existent infections. US Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington state has reportedly asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the Office Depot service.

Fraudulent PC support companies and scams have spread over the internet and have amassed tons of money from unsuspecting victims. Most of which originated from overseas and is set up as fly-by-night operations. This practice might be more common than we think and has been a scapegoat by scammers. They employ people from 3rd-world countries for cheap labor and maximum profit from their scams.

So if you are one of the people who had purchased from OfficeMax and Office Depot, it is highly advised to uninstall the PC Health Check software to avoid this issue.

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