In the computer repair/services industry, just like with any other type of service based business, there are a small number of people that will pray on the uninformed. With forty + years in the field I have seen a number of scams and scammers do their harm. Listed below are some of the more common computer repair scams you’ll want to stay away from.
Scam 1. The system is a total loss and can not be repaired, but “they” happen to have another PC they can sell you cheap. The tip off here is if the “tech” or store wants your old system as a trade in or to “recycle”.
The con here is there is little to nothing wrong with your system. The “tech” then sells you a system he got from somebody else he pulled this same scam on and then fixes whatever small problem your system had and sells it to the next person he scams. And on and on. In most case you end up with a lower quality system then you started with and the “tech” make a huge profit from you and the next “repair”.
Scam 2. Parts stolen and replaced with lower quality parts.
This can happen if the “tech” needs to take the computer back to their shop or when you leave a computer at a shop. The scam is they will take your higher end parts and replace them with lower grade parts. Then resell your “better” part(s) to somebody else.
You can avoid this scam by asking for an inventory of all the parts in your system with serial numbers before you release the system to be worked on. Also inform the “tech” you will want all your broken parts back if they need to be replaced. This will put the tech on notice you are going to be taking a close look at their work.
If they will not inventory your system or don’t give back parts take your system to somebody else.
Scam 3. Unlicensed Software.
In many cases people will lose their software CD’s & Install Disks and the “tech” may offer you a “copy” of the software you need. Much of the time these are illegal copies being sold and you get harmed as you will not get support from the software vendor, can’t get many security updates and miss out on discounts to future versions of the software. Also many Unlicensed Software copies are infected with viruses and spyware.
The “tech” makes a big profit off of software he never paid for and your left holding the bag.
If your told you need software make sure you are getting a legal copy with CD’s and printed license and product keys.
Scam 4. System Wipes.
This is a very common scam you see with low priced offers from discount “techs”. As many problems are software related on computers.
It takes a good deal of time, knowledge and experience to learn how to find and fix the many things that can go wrong with software. The scam here is that the “tech” never even thinks about fixing your problems.
They just reformat your hard drive and reinstall windows.
(many times with unlicensed software).
Your then told that all your data was/is corrupt and it was the only way to fix your system. The reason this scam is so common is the “tech” only needs to learn how to do 2 things.
1. Install windows.
2. Take your money.
The reasons this hurts you is first you may not have any legal software on your system and you have lost all your data. In addition devices like printers and other devices will no longer work as their software is gone and needs to be reinstalled.
This scam is very popular with “techs” that claim to be the “cheapest around” as they make allot of their money on volume. They wipe/format as many systems as they can each day. As they are not “wasting” time trying to find a problem they can make allot of quick cash even though their prices are cheap.
You can avoid this scam by demanding that you are called with an estimate before any repair is done and telling the “tech” they may not format your drive without your permission. Its funny how many “Techs” on being told this will not be able to do your repair for whatever reason.
A subset of this scam is “refresher repairs”.
This is where the “tech” claims he has all the software needed to “refresh” your system to factory/new. This is just another way to say “system wipe” and in most cases they just put on hacked or stolen software.
Scam 5. Free Diagnostics, Flat/Super low Rates.
Could you do your job all day for free? No?? Are you sure?
The scam here is dirt simple. Once you drag your computer all over town your not going to want to go pick it up and have to find somebody else to fix it. So the “tech” gets his money most of the time. And for some strange reason your repair just happens to be more then their low rate because your system or repair is unique in some way.
Most “flat rate” quotes are based on what a tech would have charged by the hour for the same service and in this case if your repair takes less time your stuck paying more the you would have in the first place.
In the majority of cases when all is said and done you will pay a real Professional less then many “cheap techs” end up getting you for in the end. You get what you pay for. Always keep that in mind.
Scam 6. Online Diagnostics & Repairs.
Would you go online for a contractor then tell them the front door to your home is open and to just come in and fix your problems without ever meeting them face to face?
No? Well lots of people do this everyday when they go online and let some phone tech log into their computer over the internet. While this idea sounds great how do you know you did not just let some guy sitting in his underware 3,000 miles away at home into your private documents and personal information?
Anybody, Once again anybody, can make a nice looking website. But you never know who is on the other end. Never let somebody you do not know have access to your system. In addition to being a huge security risk this type of “repair” fails many times because if you have a hardware issue they can not fix it online. Also if something messes up and you can not boot or get back online they can’t do anything to fix it. And you will notice that they will always ask for your credit card information before they have provided you any service.
While this type of “service” is pretty new I have already had new customers tell me that once they get your money and can’t fix something they just blow you off and tell you to call the builder of your computer or Microsoft.
Always play it safe and meet the person that your going to trust with your equipment and personal data.
Other things to look out for…
Under qualified Technicians.
Over the 40+ years I have been working with computers I have seen the work of many Unqualified Technicians and the damage they can cause to people. More always seem to pop-up when the economy slows down a bit as some people think this is a business that is easy to get into and make a quick buck.
I have seen everybody from accountants to ex tree trimmers claim to be a computer repair expert. But as with just about any other type of business the real experts are the ones who have put the time and training into their profession. Always ask if somebody your going to let have access to your personal and business data is quilfied to work on your computers.
People doing “Side Jobs”.
Some people will advertise cheap computer repair as a “side job” they do. Well what happens when your “side job” gets in the way of their “real job”? If something goes wrong will they still be around? Will they care about keeping their business name good if they have no real business?
New to the business.
With the economy going bad alot of computer hobbiest jump in and try to make some money by getting into computer repair. While there is nothing wrong with starting a new business many get in over their heads and just don’t have the real world computer repair experience needed to walk into any home or office and be able to do any repair.
If you look at Backpage or Craigslist you see lots of people running ads. What you don’t see is the same people month after month in most cases. Most new computer repair businesses go bust in the first 6 months.
So as always protect yourself and ask questions and for proof that they have been in the business more then just a few months. An easy way to do this is ask for a copy of a business license from a few years ago. No past license? Then they have not been around all that long.
Wow, this sounds bad are there any honest technicians?
Just like with car repairs and other types of service it’s just a few “bad apples” that make it seem like everybody is out to get your money.
While the range of experience will vary, most technicians are honest and are in the business to help, not scam you.
But just like with any type of repair you need to keep your guard up.
Ask questions! Lots of them! This is your number one way to tell if the person your dealing with is honest or not.
I have found that too many pointed, informed questions will make any scammer run and hide fast.
If you ask questions and use what you have learned here the odds are your next repair will be a good one.