Senator asks FTC to investigate Office Depot PC tech practices

Senator Maria Cantwell last week asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate claims that retailer Office Depot has used some of the same tactics as PC tech scammers to convince consumers to pay for expensive support plans or pricy repairs.

The allegations against Office Depot and its sister company, Office Max, originated last week with reports by television stations KIRO of Seattle and WFXT of Boston. Each station had bought several new PCs, then taken them to local Office Depot or Office Max stores for diagnostic tests, telling technicians that the machines were running slowly.

In the majority of cases, Office Depot or Office Max support technicians claimed that the PCs showed symptoms of being infected with malware, and recommended that the customer pay for repairs or long-term support plans, with costs ranging from $148 to $199.

According to a former Office Depot technician that KIRO interviewed, the chain required support personnel to run a software scanning tool, “PC Health Check,” that automatically signaled a malware problem if the technician checked any of four boxes after querying the customer about pop-up ad problems, slow speeds, virus warnings and random shut-downs.

Once a “problem” was detected, the technician was to pitch a support plan or repair, said Shane Barnett, who worked at Office Depot. Technicians were pressured to meet sales goals for such services, Barnett added.

In her letter, Cantwell asked Edith Ramirez, the chairwoman of the FTC, to look into the charges. “American consumers rely on their personal computers now more than ever,” Cantwell wrote. “In this context, Office Depot’s exploitative behavior is particularly disturbing.”

The allegations resemble the tactics used by telephone and online scammers posing as reputable computer support representatives, often claiming to be employed by Microsoft. Those scammers have tricked consumers into believing that their PCs were infected with malware, often after the “technician” ran a bogus scanning tool or pulled up the Windows event log to point out innocuous messages.

At that point, the scammer pitched high-priced support plans or a session to “clean” the PC of (non-existent) malware.

Office Depot and Office Max did not immediately reply to a request for comment on Cantwell’s letter to the FTC or to questions about whether they have changed their practices since the charges were made by KIRO and WFXT.

Donald Trump Hillary Clinton 2016 Presidential Election

America voted. Donald Trump is our President Elect. It was a historic battle to put it lightly. Hearts, minds, friends, and family were divided and came together. Still, according to big data, America is divided 50/50. Hopefully, as mature and intelligent Americans we can move forward in solving a few problems that effect everyone.

Tech Support Scams

Hello, we are calling from Windows and your computer looks like it is infected. Our Microsoft Certified Technician can fix it for you.”

Sound familiar? Do not fall for this scam.

How tech support scams work

Cold calls from fake Microsoft (etc) agents

phoneUsually from India and operating out of boiler rooms, these scammers call people in the U.S, Canada, the UK, and Australia whom they find in the phone directory.

The scam is straightforward: pretend to be calling from Microsoft, gain remote control of the machine, trick the victim with fake error reports and collect the money.

If you ever get a call from a Microsoft or Windows tech support agent out of the blue, the best thing to do is simply hang up. Scammers like to use VoIP technology so their actual number and location are hidden. Their calls are almost free which is why they can do this 24/7.

As per Microsoft:

You will never receive a legitimate call from Microsoft or our partners to charge you for computer fixes.

How fast does my computer need to be for college courses?

Your computer should be able to run at normal speed while having multiple windows open. Some may be playing videos, downloading music or programs, or viewing documents. Most laptops being sold to students today have more than 2GHz of processing power. This is a pretty good baseline to draw when shopping for a laptop.

Simply put, a student’s laptop is his or her lifeline. You’ll be on your laptop several hours per day, whether you’re writing computer code, typing an essay, researching a topic, or just checking Facebook. A laptop needs to be able to handle all of these tasks-sometimes simultaneously-and still operate with reasonable speed.

That being said, an English or Philosophy major who uses Microsoft Word and Adobe Reader is going to put less stress on their computer than an engineer who uses MATLAB or a computer programmer who uses Java. If all you need out of a computer are relatively basic functions, processing power is of less concern to you. Based on your interests, try to figure out what the specific uses of your computer may be.

Google is helping people

Google for its large corporate size is surprisingly helping the very poor of our planet. I admire how they are designing inexpensive devices and ways to get connected to the internet and providing these to the forgotten and poverty stricken. The rest of the story is HERE.