Beware of the “tech support pass off”

imageRecently, I installed a new computer for an individual. I migrated all of the files over to their new computer from their old one and they were up and running. Unfortunately, their old computer had been around for a long time and so had the printer that was being used with it. While I was able to get the printer installed, it certainly was not very compatible with the new version of Windows, Windows 8.  I recommended that they purchase a new printer and give me a call if they needed help installing it.

Fast forward about two weeks. I get a call from the individual telling me that they are having more computer problems. They told me they installed the new printer, and had a few questions about its operation. The main question has to do with being able to print black print only rather than  color print on every print out. Since this was a seemingly minor question, they called the printer vendor for assistance. Once the printer vendor determined that this was not a functional problem with the printer, the vendor forwarded their call to a third-party support firm that could “help them with all their computer issues. ” Up to this point the owner did everything correctly. But the next step was a big mistake.

Somehow in the process of asking a question, the third-party company asked to connect to their computer. They made the connection, downloaded some software to do some testing, looked around on the machine, did some installs, and finally told them they were infected and full of viruses. Keep in mind, this is a brand-new computer installation and it would be very unlikely to have viruses infected already. But nonetheless, they showed the owner things on the computer that they said were problems and needed to be fixed. Then they told them that it would cost them $225 for some special software to be downloaded that would take care of all their problems. Keep in mind here, the initial question had to do with printing in black instead of color. Unfortunately, this unscrupulous third-party, never got around to that problem. They told them that the viruses were preventing the computer from printing in black.

Some of you may think this sounds ridiculous, but this is what we deal with in today’s world. Calling hardware technical support is certainly a reasonable thing to do. But allowing any technical support to pass you off to a third-party company that wants to connect and install software on your computer is a big mistake. My experience tells me that I’ve seen this much more often from printer vendors than any other.  Obviously, if there are viruses or spyware on this machine, it was this third-party companies software that installed them.

I know some of you will find this hard to believe, but the Internet is full of unscrupulous people trying to make a buck off of you.  How sad it is that this printer vendor is hooked up with one of these, but it’s easy to find many instances of the exact same issue.

One time when I was in a fun loving mood, I went to one of these websites that tells you they can scan your computer for problems and tell you whether you have any.  I ran their web-based software on my machine and it came back with hundreds of viruses and spyware issues on my computer. They then offered for $29, to sell me software that would fix all the problems. The funny thing about this was, the computer I ran the scan on the Macintosh.  Many of the viruses they told me I had, or PC only viruses.  Now obviously, I wouldn’t pay for their software, but this just goes to show there’s a sucker born every minute.  In an attempt to save a little money from hiring a reputable hardware and software support individual, people do this every day.

Unless you are an enterprise user Microsoft does not provide support for windows. The vendor you purchase the computer from must provide support for the windows software,  I have also seen other situations when people have searched the web looking for Microsoft support.  The links you find will all be these third-party support companies.  Never use any of these as often times they will get you into the same situation

The moral of the story is fairly simple. If someone you don’t know wants to connect to your computer and install or run any program, back away and hang up. I can  tell you that there are times when reputable vendors need to do this process, but in today’s world, more times than not, the problems only begin when you let these vendors work on your machine.

It is entirely reasonable to call a hardware or software vendor about their product. It is completely unreasonable to accept a handoff to a new third-party company, that has nothing to do with the original vendor, in these situations.  Contact someone you know. Someone you trust. Someone who can look at your computer and determine if there really are problems before you spend money on an Internet solution.

It is much easier, and less expensive for you to have a professional look at your machine, or answer your question, than it is to try to fix problems after the fact that are caused by one of these Internet solution providers.