back to article Duped into running bogus virus scans at Office Depot? Dry your eyes with a small check from $35m settlement

Victims of dodgy IT support from Office Depot will start receiving compensation checks, a US consumer watchdog said Thursday. The payouts come from a 2019 settlement the retail giant reached with the FTC, after the biz was accused of letting employees and a computer support provider trick punters into paying for unneeded …

  1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    Whilst it's nice that for a change all the money isn't going to the lawyers, how can it be justified that those ripped off $300 only get $64 back? It's not as if the company has gone bust..

    Or is it simply a case that they'd have to file a separate complaint? If so, well, I would have thought the FTC should have made sure all customers were properly reimbersed .. And Office Depot should have at least tried to reduce the bad PR.

    1. Vehlin

      If they chose to become part of the class action then they get their share of what the lawyers managed to negotiate (less fees). By joining the class they will have had to have waived their rights to further action in exchange for being represented as a class on a contingency basis.

      Those that haven't joined the class are free to take their own action, but as no liability was admitted they will be unable to use this suit as precedent and thus must go up against Office Depot's lawyers on their own..

      1. TRT Silver badge

        I'd really, really, really enjoy it if the law firm retained by Office Depot had solicited a subsidiary law firm of theirs to file a series of fake or over-exaggerated class action law suits against Office Depot and then, when the board of directors had asked for legal advice about what to do in this circumstance, just suggested that their law firm could sort all the trouble out for them for a nominal fee.

        *Lawyer shuffling through letters about the legal claims against them*

        "2,618 reported cases... Let's see..."

        *shuffle*

        "Ooh yeah, that's a really nasty one that is. Could do you a lot of damage. Wipe your bank account completely, it could - hold your entire company to ransom. Luckily I know how to fix it. It's not easy, I mean, you couldn't do it yourself or anything. It might come back if you don't sort it out properly. You've just got to know what you're doing, is all. Best pay for an expert to sort it out - it'll be cheaper in the long run."

      2. Jamie Jones Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Thanks! That's a great explanation.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "and thus must go up against Office Depot's lawyers on their own."

        None of these are for huge amounts individually. If the US has anything like the small claims arrangements in the UK it would cost them more to defend than simply pay up.

  2. Martin-73 Silver badge
    Devil

    Simply take the rest of the refund by shoplifting

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      In some cities in the US, shoplifting under ~$750 isn't investigated or prosecuted. As long as you don't get in a wrestling match with the staff on your way out, you could be off with no consequences other than many shops closing up and going elsewhere.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    #1 Fake Virus Warning #2 Profit!

    Ah yes, the age old scam of extorting money and/or user data through fear.

    Very much like this app developer that is affiliated with Avast .

    #From the Google Play Store reviews of the app:

    "DO NOT GET THIS YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR IT BUT IF YOU GET IT THEN GET RID OF IT YOU WILL GET MESSAGE AFTER MESSAGE TELLING YOU THAT YOU HAVE A VIRUS AND REALLY YOU DON'T SINCE LAST NIGHT FROM 11:30 PM I HAVE GOTTEN OVER 100 MESSAGES FROM THIS DUMB APP:"

    "

    1. JimPoak

      Re: #1 Fake Virus Warning #2 Profit!

      This tactic is as old as the hills. I view this with disdain. Greed and avarice go hand in hand.

      Their is a simple way to prevent virus infection and it's free.

      Circle, circle.

      Dot, dot.

      Now you got your cootie shot.

      Not available in the Uk

  4. Richard Crossley
    Stop

    It's not enough, not even close

    Let's start with 541,247 victims.

    $300 per victim

    $162,374,100

    Now double this to act as a punishment and that's just the fine.

    The victims should also have their costs + interest at a punitive level also returned.

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: It's not enough, not even close

      Well, this is a settlement, no admittance of guilt etc., so fines are not a thing here.

      But I agree.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: It's not enough, not even close

        BY definition, the settlement is an admission of guilt. If there was no guilt, they'd win in court and the class action would lose. The settlement appears to be costing them more than a court case they would have won and claimed costs on, therefore they certainly appear to be guilty in my non-lawyer and therefore free-of-charge opinion

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: It's not enough, not even close

          Not really. The settlement is to make the case go away. Could be guilt, sure, but could also be the simplest, cheapest and fastest way of disappearing the problem. It's a payment, in fact, to not admit guilt.

          If they took the case to the end whistle and won, it would be cheaper. If they lost they could take serious damage. It's a numbers game and has very little to do with guilt or innocence. A settlement is officially a state of "Schroedingers innocence"....could be innocent or guilty but you won't know till you open the box; and paying the settlement nails the box shut.

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "Office Depot agreed to fork out $25m while not admitting liability"

    They paid, so they're guilty. Only in the fabulous legal system of the US can you be a scumbag and keep your record clean.

    1. yoganmahew

      Re: "Office Depot agreed to fork out $25m while not admitting liability"

      Nope. Happens everywhere, often between insurance companies.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Oh ? So insurance companies are now part of the legal system ? I didn't know that.

    2. alain williams Silver badge

      Re: "Office Depot agreed to fork out $25m while not admitting liability"

      This means that the scambags will just dream up some other heist to carry out on their customers, try to avoid being caught but if they are then the cost of any settlement will be factored in to the plan.

      The only way of stopping things like this is to make them eat government supplied porridge.

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: "Office Depot agreed to fork out $25m while not admitting liability"

      In Civil cases it's a way to limit exposure since it's a toss up on what a jury might decide and since most big cases go against big companies if they are heard by a jury, they're better off negotiating a settlement that the other side will accept (meaning how big of a check the attorneys get).

      Copyright is a huge one for not going to court much. The laws are well defined so it only lines the pockets of the lawyers to fight an infringement suit unless it's an edge case. If your work is infringed and you have your lawyer send the person/company a notice, it makes sense to accept a settlement that might be lower than what you might get in court to have it done and over with fast. Lawyers bill by the hour. (I've written a very simplistic view and made a certain number of assumptions here about it being a very clear cut case with registered media.)

      I'd like to see some very big fines/settlements when the offense looks as egregious as this. It's a lot like the Copyright trolls that were producing their own pron movies and posting them to The Pirate Bay and then demanding settlements from people that downloaded them. The judge was pretty harsh when that came to light.

  6. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    And what about the others?

    We used to see thousands of little popups on websites saying that "a virus has been detected, download a removal tool" but has anyone ever chased those faker adverts down?

    Basically if Office Depot had been an internet company and done that they would have gotten away with it, but instead because they are a real store that the cops and lawers can visit so they are being sued. It's so much easier to chase brick stores with addresses than internet stores - so tcan get away with anything on the internet.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And what about the others?

      Well boo-hoo for the bricks 'n mortar crims!

    2. katrinab Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: And what about the others?

      Yes. Jim Browning has an entire YouTube channel about it.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Thanks for that. Now I have an entire new channel to peruse !

    3. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: And what about the others?

      People are also inclined to trust a bricks and mortar store more. Many fewer people trust a popup ad.

      Office Depot were trading on this trust when they told customers in their store that they had a problem.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Eat

    all Executives

  8. Firehawke

    I worked for SDC during the latter part of that timeframe as one of the support reps. A large number of us complained to management about the detection software; it was very old at that point and couldn't detect some newer malware, and the message it put up for not finding anything was essentially "you should probably have the machine checked out because there's a lot of newer stuff on a day to day basis"-- basically a full-on scare tactic even if true.

    Management also treated PUPs (potentially interested programs) as full infections, with the general idea that if someone knew enough about the machine to install those, they wouldn't come to us for help. While true, it felt to me that they really felt the need to pad the results as much as possible to justify the service.

    That said, we did find quite a bit of junkware, malware, spyware, and legitimately concerning pups on a regular basis. If they'd listened to us and updated the software sooner, things might've gone better for them. In the end they made the staff redundant by moving service overseas, and I jumped ship as soon as I saw the end coming.

  9. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    How did Office Depot et al got caught out with their dodgy tactics?

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