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Watch out for in-store tech support scams

Watch out for in-store tech support scams

If you've ever had a malfunctioning computer, you know how frustrating it is. Whether it's running super slow or locked up altogether, it's just impossible to deal with. The problem could be the result of a number of things, such as a virus or spyware.

If you're not a computer expert and are experiencing problems, more than likely you'll have to take your machine to a repair center to get it diagnosed. But what if that repair center is pulling a scam on you?

An investigation by Jesse Jones, from KIRO 7 in Seattle, claims that some Office Depot locations are scamming customers.

How the scam works

Jones, along with some producers, visited Office Depot locations from Washington and Oregon. He had their techs run Office Depot's free PC Health Check on six computers. Four of those six stores claimed that the PCs showed symptoms of malware.

The catch is, all of the computers were brand new, right out of the box. They had never been connected to the internet. Making it virtually impossible for them to be infected with malware.

Technicians who told Jones his computer was infected, then tried selling him an Office Depot repair. Those repairs would cost up to $180.

Without having the computers repaired, Jones took them to a local security company to have them checked. They were all found to be malware free.

The same type of investigation on Office Depot was recently carried out by WFXT in Boston. It found that two out of three brand new computers were misdiagnosed and claimed to show symptoms of malware.

Possible glitch in PC Health Check

Before techs run the PC Health Check, they ask the customer to describe what they are experiencing with their PC. There are four options to choose from.

  1. Slow speeds
  2. Random shut downs
  3. Pop-up problems
  4. Virus warnings

If the customer says they are having any of these issues, the tech checks a box located in the PC Health Check next to the problem. It turns out that if any of these boxes are checked, the software automatically reports that the PC is showing symptoms of malware.

This means the test results are predetermined and the customer is advised to pay for a repair.

In response to these shocking allegations, Office Depot has stopped using PC Health Check. The company also said it does not condone the type of conduct reported in the investigations and is performing a full review of the situation.

After hearing about these allegations, Washington Senator Maria Cantwell got involved. Cantwell sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking for an investigation to be launched.

We will stay on top of this story and let you know of any updates. Keep checking our Happening Now section for further information.

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Source: Arstechnica
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