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Office Depot allegedly diagnosing computers with fake viruses to hit sales targets

For the vast majority of computer users, we defer to the experts if we get an issue. Some of us may be able to open the case, hammer out a few keystrokes, and perform fancy tech voodoo, but the rest are lost when it comes down to diagnosing and repairing computer trouble. If we have a problem, we either call our friend in the IT department at work and beg them to come over “just to take a look,” or we unplug everything and haul it off to a big box store’s tech support team. And if you happen to pick up a virus, it can be the trickiest problem of all.

A rather disturbing report has emerged. Has Office Depot’s tech team been telling users that they have a virus on their machine when they really don’t, just to meet company-mandated sales goals/targets? That’s the gist of this report in The Consumerist. It cites a story from CBS affiliate KIRO-TV in Seattle, where store employees claim that pressure to sell computer protection plans has led staffers to “misdiagnose” computers with viruses.

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“The PC Health Check doesn’t compute,” the employee says. “If they actually did what they said and cared about customers they wouldn’t have started this program. Customers are unaware they are being taken advantage of.”

KIRO took half a dozen computers to various Office Depot stores in Washington and Oregon for PC Health Checks, and the techs determined that 4 of the 6 had “symptoms of malware.” The employees then tried to sell services costing up to $200 to set things right.

The only thing was all of the computers were brand new and straight out of the box. A second test by another computer security firm showed no malware issues or need for repair. According to the KIRO story, the workers selling the programs were following corporate orders. “It’s not an option to run the program,” he said. “You have to run it on all machines that come in the building.”

The employee goes on to add that the company posts sales goals and current employee sales stats in the break room so everyone can view them. This peer pressure then influences the more enthusiastic staffers to push services that aren’t exactly needed. Office Depot told the station that the matter is being investigated and that it does not condone the alleged actions, and that appropriate action will be taken.