Office Depot rigged malware scans to sell you tech support


OFFICE DEPOT’S PHONY WARNING

❝ Office Depot and a partner company tricked customers into buying unneeded tech support services by offering PC scans that gave fake results, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Consumers paid up to $300 each for unnecessary services.

❝ Office Depot and its software supplier, Support.com, have agreed to pay a total of $35 million in settlements with the agency. Office Depot agreed to pay $25 million while Support.com will pay the other $10 million. The FTC said it intends to use the money to provide refunds to wronged consumers…

❝ “Defendants bilked unsuspecting consumers out of tens of millions of dollars from their use of the PC Health Check program to sell costly diagnostic and repair services,” the FTC alleged in a complaint that accuses both companies of violating the FTC Act’s prohibition against deceptive practices. As part of the settlements, neither company admitted or denied the FTC’s allegations.

Office Depot is considered one of the best of their peers. Kinds makes you wonder what some of their competitors might be up to. Or not.

Feds crack down on tech support scammers

Consumer frauds often make claims that are too good to be true. But a recent one, cited by regulators around the world Wednesday, depended on a pitch that many people found completely believable — that Microsoft or another computer company knows what is on your personal computer.

The Federal Trade Commission announced a multinational crackdown on so-called tech support scams, in which a caller fools a consumer into believing Microsoft or a computer security company has discovered that a PC is infected with harmful software. The caller then offers to fix the computer on the spot for a price. The target would sometimes let the ostensible tech support company gain remote access to his computer, allowing the company to download software to it.

In six cases filed in federal district court in Manhattan, the commission named 17 individuals and 14 companies, most in India, as participants in the operations, including many with legitimate-sounding names like Virtual PC Solutions and Zeal IT Solutions.

At the commission’s request, a federal district judge in Manhattan froze the United States assets of the suspects. The commission also said it had shut down 80 Internet domain names and 130 phone numbers in the United States used in the scheme. Efforts to reach several of the companies and individuals were unsuccessful.

Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the trade commission, said at a news conference that the scheme involved getting a computer user to look at a program that is a standard part of the Windows operating system…

The caller would then warn that those files indicated viruses that could crash the computer or, in at least one case studied by the F.T.C., that the computer could explode…

The suspected fraud occurred in several English-speaking countries. Joining the F.T.C. in the enforcement action were the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission and Britain’s Serious Organized Crime Agency.

David Vladeck, director of the F.T.C.’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said the commission was working with law enforcement officials in India to catch the perpetrators. The commission has also referred the cases to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution.

If someone contacts you – or you see a tempting advert for someone offering to clean your computer’s software up for you – do yourself a favor and contact the computer’s manufacturer and ask what they think of the offer and the source?

Please.

Jobs? Hewlett Packard opens Rio Rancho center

Hewlett-Packard Co. has opened a customer service and technical support center in Rio Rancho, NM, making good on a commitment to provide 1,300 jobs that pay at least $40,000 in exchange for more than $20 million in incentives.

Gov. Bill Richardson and HP president and CEO Mark Hurd led a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday in front of the three-story, 218,000-square-foot building as politicians, business leaders and employees of the computer firm waited in the cold.

The governor told the crowd the opening was good news, given that New Mexico and the rest of the nation are grappling with economic uncertainty and high unemployment.

However, the expected economic boost of having HP in New Mexico came with a price. New Mexico invested millions of dollars in the form of tax incentives, job training and capital outlay funds to attract the Fortune 500 company to the state.

Some of the Republican whiners are too funny – even knowing they’re duty bound to oppose anything that looks like stimulus funds are achieving anything. 600 folks are already trained and start work, next Monday.

One favorite chuckle is that Rio Rancho is only charging $1 for the land. If you saw the land beforehand – it was mostly noted for tumbleweed attacks.

I’m happiest that construction beat the stereotypes of mañana that are often the standard around here. The building came in under budget and two months ahead of schedule.