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A malfunctioning computer is a horrible thing to experience. Considering the amount of photos, documents, and sensitive materials present on computers nowadays, some will spare no expense to get their computer working again. But there is a fate worse than losing all your data. It’s having a tech expert scam you out of hundreds of dollars to get it back.
This isn’t to say PC repair is a complete ripoff or that you should repair a PC yourself. I wouldn’t recommend handling electrical issues in your home by yourself either. Yet, you can avoid certain online and in-person PC repair scams. Use these tips to save time and money next time your PC needs a repair.
Online Tech Support Scams
Windows scammers have been a longstanding issue amongst Windows users. Scam centers will call users claiming they have found malware or Trojan viruses in their computer. If given the opportunity, they proceed to take control of and infect your PC while you watch. They then attempt to charge hundreds of dollars for life-time maintenance services.
One common scam tactic with over-the-phone tech support, is using the Event Viewer on Windows to scare customers. You can open the Event Viewer by using the Windows Run menu: press Windows key + R and type eventvwr into the prompt. Event Viewer records every error reported on your PC. These errors consist of limited permissions accesses. They are normal and do not indicate an infected PC. For those that aren’t familiar with Even Viewer, however, it may seem as though there’s something wrong.
If you did not seek help from a company or received a call that your PC is somehow infected, it is usually a scam. If a company offers help in some capacity — such as virus removal or free life-time PC repair — that was not prompted, do not trust them.
Microsoft, the creators of Windows, will never call your personal phone number. Furthermore, viruses aren’t detected on some mysterious server as the scammers claim. Remote viewing software is a staple in the IT field, but the user is warned beforehand. Legitimate IT companies also provide step by step explanations of what they are doing, rather than commit tasks without notification.
At-Home Repair Scams
At-home repair is a popular and convenient method of fixing computers, but some at-home repair technicians will attempt to scam you with misdiagnosed problems.
Your Hard Drive Is Broken
The first major scam is claiming that your faulty computer is the result of a broken hard drive. Data is important for all users, but it’s more important for some than for others. If you have an at-home business, PC repair technicians are dealing with your livelihood. They know this and will jump on the opportunity to charge for data recovery.
It’s easy to scare the average consumer into paying hundreds of dollars to save their data, even though your hard drive may not be at fault. Hard drives, like all other PC components, are built to withstand use. Hard drive enclosures also provide secure positioning in the PC case. This isn’t to say hard drives never fail. All hard drives have a failure rate, depending on the manufacturer. This failure rate increases over time as you use your hard drive. To ensure that the hard drive is the issue, make sure your hard drive is tested before springing for a new one.
You can rip files from your hard drive yourself with a simple SATA to USB adapter (UK). These adapters allow you to copy data from your hard drive using a regular USB slot. If your PC isn’t working, you can make a backup copy of your data files on a separate computer. You can also try backing up your files to reduce file loss if disaster strikes.
If the technicians offer to replace your old hard drive with a new one, make sure their prices are correct. Search for hard drives on Amazon to get a ball-park rate of how much comparable hard drives cost. This is true for all other PC parts. It may be cheaper to buy the hard drive yourself and have them install it.
Your Motherboard / Graphics Card / CPU Is Dead
The worst thing that can happen to your computer is hardware failure. These parts can be expensive, and troubleshooting can be a timely and costly process. The upside to this diagnosis? It’s usually not true.
Diagnosing computer problems can be difficult. One of your parts may be defective, damaged due to a recent power surge, affected by a faulty power supply, and so on. Here are some methods you can use to make sure that, as a client, you are not charged for parts you don’t need:
- Ask Why — You should never be afraid to ask why a part is defective or damaged and ask to see proof. Have the technician be as clear as possible. A good PC repair technician should be able to explain why a part is not working in clear and simple terms.
- Ask Where — Some will claim that your part is burnt or damaged. Ask to see the damage yourself, as it should be noticeable.
- Ask for Proof — Certain software provides clear readouts of what is wrong with your computer. Ask to see the proof. If a PC technician knows what is wrong, it’s because they read about it somewhere. Have them provide a second opinion, or seek one out yourself.
- Test Your Hardware — It never hurts to ask that a PC technician test the hardware. Some won’t, due to inability or unwillingness. Those who do are often trustworthy and more than willing to help you.
It can be intimidating to ask technicians questions,due to their technical answers. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. PC technicians aren’t afraid to charge as much as they can for their knowledge, so don’t be afraid to get your money’s worth. If a PC technician cannot prove to you, beyond a reasonable doubt, that hardware problems are indeed the issue, do not trust them.
This PC Needs to Be Taken to the Shop
Your technician might want to take your PC to a their shop for a number of reasons. Vital tools, like voltmeters and operating system repair discs, aren’t available at home. That said, it might not be necessary. In fact, your PC may end up sitting on a counter for weeks without so much as a look.
Ask why the PC needs to go to a shop and don’t settle for the diagnostic scan explanation. The purpose of at-home PC repair is to troubleshoot, identify, and solve a simple PC issue. Ask what they mean by a diagnostic scan and how much it would cost. Ask the PC technician what knowledge he or she has gained and what their next steps will be. If they don’t have a plan, don’t believe them.
Diagnosing a home PC for issues and errors should not take longer than a week. This is because home PCs often suffer from the same, general issues. By and large, fixing and troubleshooting home computers requires a couple of methods. The issue is rarely strange enough to warrant a month of troubleshooting.
PC Repair Shop Scams
Most 0f what was covered in the At-Home repair section also applies to PC repair shops, so don’t be afraid to ask for documentation. I want to add; most small PC repair shops are surprisingly honest and transparent. The technicians will often be kind to users who aren’t well versed with computers and will attempt to charge competitive prices. There are, however, certain sales techniques which are sure-fire indicators that you could potentially be scammed.
Buy Anti-virus Now!
Some PC technicians aren’t technicians, they’re salespeople. Instead of trying to fix your problem, they’ll peddle certain items like anti-virus software. This anti-virus software can be costly and ineffective. Geek Squad, a PC repair company owned by Best Buy, is notorious for employing sales people as their heads of tech support.
This isn’t to say free software will prevent all computer infections that can occur. Yet, they can provide a comfortable buffer between you and harm. We have covered plenty of free Internet security suites and you can turn to other online sources, if you need help finding anti-virus and anti-malware software.
You Should Just Buy a New Computer
Most PC issues are fixable, as average daily use will not wear out the hardware components much. It’s also rare to have a failure of two or more components at a single time. Why would PC technicians recommend that you buy a new PC?
A legitimate reason is that parts for older PCs are hard to find and often out of circulation. Another one is pricing. Technicians charge a fee for troubleshooting, installation, and parts. The total cost of the PC repair may equal the cost of a new computer. In this specific case, a new computer makes sense.
The issue comes about when a minor operating system issue ends up costing you both your data and old computer. This is especially unfortunate if you end up spending a lot of money on hardware you don’t need. Ask for a printout of the price of fixing the computer and the price of a new one. If your PC technician is not willing to do that, shop around to get a different diagnosis. You walked in this shop to repair a PC, and not necessarily to buy a new one.
Don’t Fall for It!
Don’t fall for false diagnoses. Don’t know the difference between a CPU and a GPU, or an HDD and a CD-ROM? No problem, that’s what PC technicians are for. Ask questions!
Plenty of online resources, including a slew of websites, are devoted to helping you fix your computer woes. That doesn’t mean you should trust the first technician you meet. Be alert and follow this guide for a better repair experience. If you leave with any advice, please remember to treat PC repair like automotive repair: get documentation, get quotes, and get results.
What tips do you have to avoid tech support scammers? Have a story you want to share? Let us know in the comments below!
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