Home Repair Portal sites

Most have seen the home repair and service portal websites. Angie’s List,  (I won two customer service awards from them) Thumbtack and the newcomer on the block Home Adviser.   All these sites claim to be “customer review” sites but my experience has been a bit different when viewed from the business angle. Please keep in mind I do not have any bad reviews with these sites, but want people to know how they work.

Most would think the business with the most reviews (or at least best) would get top listing but that is not true. Within minutes of signing up with one of these sites a business will receive various offers to “improve” their position on these repair portals via email and through cold calling by these companies.

So you as an end user might never see the best repair companies because they might not have paid to get higher rankings. And you maybe exposed to less then stellar companies just because they paid to be seen first. Now some would say “what’s the big deal, it’s advertising”. And to a degree, I agree. Any company can place ads wherever they please.

But the part I object to is that these sites cloth themselves in the illusion that it’s the reviews that drive what you see and in my experience it is not true. If the review placement you see can be changed by cash, then your not seeing a real review. Simple as that.

Adding to the “fake feel” of all this to me is the way these sites deal with businesses. First with all the emails and phone calls about getting “new” reviews. Some of which were over six months old when I checked them. But when looking online always seem to dovetail right into a new sales pitch. But at least you can in most cases get removed from or at least reduce your exposure to these sale attempts.

While it took me a few tries to get me removed from Angie’s list sales calls and thumbtack lets you opt out on their settings pages. It was not too painful.  And for the most part I forgot about these companies.   Until yesterday when Home Adviser contacted me …

with three emails In the space of 2 minutes, saying I have signed up with them (I have not) …

And the last email is from “Rebecca” saying she has new sales leads on “her desk” right now. So somehow I signed up for this service, confirmed my email address (as all signups would have you do nowadays) and got brand new leads printed out and ready for “Rebecca” to review with me?

As I am sure you have figured out by now all this is just to get a potential business excited about their service. As all this could not have happened in two minutes time.

But it leaves a bad taste in my mouth when business is conducted in this way. As the truth seems to be bent for both the consumer and the businesses involved. Paid placement or ads should be obvious and not “hidden” in the review context. And fake “sign ups” and sales leads are just lies. Why do business with companies that can’t pass a ethics 101 class?

LastPass warns users while it fixes a ‘MAJOR’ vulnerability.

While I am all for any attempt by end users to secure their passwords, I have always been a bit leery of using services such as Lastpass. As they are a high value target. Hackers know if they can get into a service like this they will have access to millions of accounts. I prefer my passwords in a spread sheet encrypted with a strong password. Seems old school to some. But I don’t have to change all my passwords every time Lastpass is in the news. And this is not the first security threat they have had to warn users about.

So….

If your using LastPass, time to do the password dance again…

ie: change your passwords now.

Monday in computer repair

Hitting the road soon for computer support calls. And have the first half of the week booked already. Just stopped for a sec as I look at some of the devices I am returning today to clients. 2 macs, a Linux box, a tablet and 3 windows machines. Always something new, 🙂

Upgrading a few of my …

Diagnostic computers and a data recovery rig I built a few years back. While getting some computer repair work done for clients.  Monday, Tuesday and Wed pretty booked up already. So a busy weekend and start of the next week. 🙂

 

Use a VPN

With the privacy laws in the USA and other countries being rolled back. It’s more important that you take your privacy more seriously. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use a VPN (Virtual private network). But most VPN’s can be tricky for the average computer user to setup.

I have found a web browser that has a built in VPN. So the setup is as easy as clicking on one button in the web browser.

The Browser is called Opera and all you have to do is click on the VPN tab in the address bar and turn the slider to “ON”.

If you use a VPN and a browser in private mode your chances of getting tracked by your ISP and advertisers.

Here is where to get the browser and how set it up…

The browser.  http://opera.com

It’s VPN setup…
http://help.opera.com/opera/Windows/2393/en/private.html#vpn

Viewing in Private mode…
http://help.opera.com/opera/Windows/2393/en/private.html#privateWindow

More privacy rights eroded

Yesterday the  United States Senate voted to let Internet service providers (ISP’s) sell your usage data to any and all advertisers. So if you wonder why when you go to a “questionable” website and then start seeing ads for the same kind of thing shortly after your visit, you will now know why.

But this goes deeper. What if your into off road motorcycles and visit lots of websites about the sport. Would your health and auto insurance shoot up because now anybody can buy a look at your interests and see your into “risky” activities?

Since this is now legal your only defense would be to hide your browser activities. Look for my post about VPN’s if you wish to protect yourself.

Two US firms lost 100 million to email scam

The BBC is reporting today the two firms in the United States fell victim to an email phishing scam where a man posing as an Asian manufacturer,  tricked employees into transferring money into bank accounts under his control.

While many think that just Grandma falls for these scams, it’s important to note that they can happen to anybody not practicing good computer security habits.

Via: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-39351215

Microsoft now determines when your computer is active?

Been working on a machine that had it’s updates corrupted. After getting them fixed and caught up, I went into settings to change the computers active times as I know this person is up late with their computer and is online over 16 hours a day.

The picture below shows that Microsoft will not let you set the systems active time for more then 12 hours. In other words in Microsoft’s view nobody should be using their computer more then 12 hours a day?  Weird if you ask me.

What happens if / when the FCC relaxes your privacy protections?

It seems that on a number of fronts the new administration wishes to let companies use your data to make a bigger profit, while trashing any last remnant of privacy for their clients.

If old privacy rules are allowed to be weakened or removed altogether you can expect the these thing to occur in quick order…

1. Selling your data to marketers. After all they would love to know all your kinks so they can insert adds for your fav bull whip. 🙂

2. Hijacking your searches. Why should you get to choose where your information comes from?

3. Snooping through your traffic and inserting ads. What, you don’t want somebody looking at what your doing?

4. Pre-installing software on your phone and recording every URL you visit. It’s not like the police, NAS or CIA have ever used any of this information before against anybody, right?

You only get tot keep the rights you stand up for and protect. So it’s up to you if you will keep the freedom you expect on the Internet or let others take it from you.