How to Recognize & Avoid Tech Support Scams [Part 2]
In a previous post, we discussed a particular kind of online scam involving unsolicited phone calls. In a sense, detecting these scams seems pretty straightforward — if you didn’t seek out their help, the call is not likely legitimate, and you should hang up. They might be able to fool the average computer user once, but after that mistake, most of us have learned our lesson.
But what if you followed all the rules, did your research, and selected a well-known tech support provider… only to discover that they, too, used shady sales tactics to get your money? What if the very company that was supposed to protect you deliberately took advantage of you? Sadly, it’s happened before.
Today, we want to talk about a darker side of the tech support industry, one which we strive hard to keep our distance from. Unethical tech support companies are so notorious that they’re defined on Wikipedia. In this post, we’ll talk about 4 unethical practices and the problems they cause for users.
Problem #1: Claiming to be someone they’re not.
What is a Technology Advisor? At Bask, a Technology Advisor is your source for all-in-one tech support, no matter what brand or type of device you’re using. We’re familiar with all sorts of bugs, glitches and malware that could affect your computer’s performance. When you call Bask, you aren’t speaking to Microsoft, but you are speaking to savvy experts who know Windows inside and out. Likewise, we are not Comcast or CenturyLink–but we know how to diagnose most Internet problems. Many of our members love that they only have one number to call when they experience issues with a computer, smartphone or tablet.
Unfortunately, not every company is honest about who they are. Just like scammers who claim to be from Apple or Microsoft, there are companies who claim affiliation with big brands. When you search online for tech support, make sure you know exactly who you’re calling. Ask the technician who they work for. If they hedge the question or claim to be working on Microsoft’s behalf, this is a red flag. You might want to move along.
Problem #2: Diagnosing issues that don’t exist.
What is the Connect Client? At Bask, the Connect Client is a program that connects members to us at the touch of a button. The program will let you know when a back-up is completed, or let you schedule your next tune-up. It also holds your license keys for Bask software, such as Data Backup and Antivirus. It is not a diagnostic tool, merely a service portal to make connecting with us easier.
Unfortunately, some companies use software that is designed to mislead and intimidate its users. This scary software (or “scareware“) might flash urgent warnings, claiming that your computer system is infected with dozens of harmful files. It might make minor concerns, like software updates or temporary files, seem like critical errors that require immediate action. This is a deliberate attempt to take advantage of users who aren’t familiar with the technical aspects of their computers.
Here is an interesting fact: According to PC World, about 1 in 14 programs downloaded by Windows users turns out to be malicious. That’s around 7 percent. Unless you’re downloading thousands of programs, it’s highly unlikely that your computer will be infected by dozens or hundreds of viruses.
Problem #3: Charging for licenses that they don’t own.
How much does Windows 10 cost? At Bask, we’ve written a lot about the Windows 10 upgrade, most recently here. The simple answer is this: for most Windows users, the upgrade itself is free until July 29th, 2016. If you’re a Windows 7 or 8 user, you can download and install Windows 10 yourself without paying a dime. But, if you’d like a Technology Advisor to install and set it up for you, there could be a service charge, depending on your membership. This charge covers our labor costs, just like any service you pay others to do. And we’re happy to do it, because it means a clean, stress-free upgrade for you to enjoy :)
Unfortunately, some companies are dishonest about how much things cost. For example, we heard about one company who told its customers that upgrading to Windows 10 on their own would cost $199 — but conveniently, it’s free if you have a membership. They do not inform users that Windows 10 is free to download and install, or whether their price represents the cost of labor. This shows a lack of transparency and honesty that is unfair to consumers.
Problem #4: Lying about the computer’s safety.
Which programs protect you better than any others? At Bask, we have reason to believe our software is the best, and here’s why.
We partner with Trend Micro for our Antivirus because it is a strong program that updates its virus definitions every 3 hours. Recently, Trend was named a leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Endpoint Protection Platforms for the 14th year in a row! It’s their strength of vision and dedication to excellence that makes our Antivirus great.
Similarly, we partner with Mozy for our Data Backup because it offers military-grade encryption to protect your data–like Fort Knox for your files. When you back up important tax documents or precious family photos with us, you can rest easy knowing they are protected. We believe our highly secure, unlimited Data Backup is a killer deal, and if you research other unlimited plans, we think you’ll agree.
All this is to say… If you end up using Norton for your antivirus or Carbonite for your backup, it’s not the end of the world. Of course we’d prefer that you use our software, and we’re happy to tell you why. But what we won’t do is lie to you.
Unfortunately, not every company feels the same. Some might tell you that their software is the only solution to protect your computer. They might tell you that you don’t have any form of antivirus, even when you do. This is deceptive at best and malicious at worst.
To be a trusted advisor, it’s critical to be honest with users about the real risks. There are enough threats online without having to fabricate more. So while we believe our membership is the best value on the market, we recognize and respect other companies out there who are doing a good job.
It’s a shame that tech users in need of support have to be so vigilant against those who try to take advantage. But, the best defense against shady practices is to know what to look for. As they say, knowledge is power. We hope that this post serves as a handy guide for some of the most common red flags.
Originally published at www.bask.com on March 16, 2016.