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Undercover Cameras Catch PC Repair Scams, Privacy Violations

Soulskill posted about 5 years ago | from the what's-in-your-e-wallet dept.

Privacy 665

Barence writes "With help from readers of PC Pro, Sky News in the UK launched an undercover investigation into rogue PC repair shops. As a result, Sky's cameras caught technicians scouring through private photos, stealing passwords and over-charging for basic repairs. It was a simple enough job: 'To create the fault, we simply loosened one of the memory chips so Windows wouldn't load. To get things working again, one needs only push the chip back into the slot and reboot the machine. Any half-way competent engineers should fix it in minutes.' But these technicians had other ideas, stealing photos and documents, as well as login details for email and bank accounts."

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Halfway Competent (5, Insightful)

Jack9 (11421) | about 5 years ago | (#28783153)

I don't know a lot of halfway competent engineers who are PC Repair men.

Re:Halfway Competent (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28783209)

Fully competent engineers make the best PC repairmen.

Halfway competent engineers should stick to engineering.

Re:Halfway Competent (3, Insightful)

fishbowl (7759) | about 5 years ago | (#28783595)

>Fully competent engineers make the best PC repairmen.

Current impressions of the job market aside, why would someone qualified for a profession who can earn upwards of $100,000 per year, work in PC repair, where even the better management jobs pay less than half that?

Re:Halfway Competent (1)

youroldbuddy (539169) | about 5 years ago | (#28783493)

I know a lot of competent engineers who are still repair men. I used to be one years ago and the higher up the pecking order I get, the more incompetency I see around me. I loved it and prefer the company I kept. The only reason I quit was that it was under appreciated.

Re:Halfway Competent (3, Insightful)

jorghis (1000092) | about 5 years ago | (#28783545)

The truth is you dont need to be really competent to be a PC repairman. 95% of problems can be solved with either "reinstall windows" or "try replacing part X and see if it works". Anything more complicated than that is going to require time, effort and expertise that exceeds the cost of the computer. So there is no point of hiring expensive people with high levels of skill to begin with.

Re:Halfway Competent (4, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | about 5 years ago | (#28783691)

If you mean "exceeds the cost of the hardware", then yes.


OTOH there's still some people who believe a repair job doesn't automatically mean the loss of all the data in the machine.

Re:Halfway Competent (1)

Krneki (1192201) | about 5 years ago | (#28783599)

Because nobody is willing to pay for one.

Privacy, eh? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28783157)

I just downloaded Google Chrome [] for Mac [] and it crashed before I could even open a page. There is no excuse for this; my Mac Pro [] is perfect in every way with eight 2.93 GHz cores [] , 32 GB RAM, and a fresh install of Mac OS X [] Leopard v10.5.7. Ergo any crashing Google Chrome does is Google Chrome's own fault!

Why is it that Apple [] and Mozilla [] can do this but Google [] can't? I ran Internet Explorer 8 [] for months before its final release, Firefox 3.5 [] since its 3.1 days, and found Safari 4 Developer Preview [] more stable than Safari 3. In fact, even WebKit [] is more stable than Chrome.

What really baffles me, however, isn't the instability [] I've come to expect from Google, but that Google has the audacity [] to ask for personal user info to improve its browser. Is the search engine maker datamonger really so desperate for my private information that it's stooped to the level of Trojan horses [] to get it?

They should ask me that when it doesn't crash on launch.

Everything Google does is just another way to sieve personal data away for targeting ads. This kind of Big Brother [] crap is more repulsive than the fat [] programmers [] that make it possible. Google, with its deep pockets and doctoral scholars [] , thinks that by holding user data hostage it can maneuver around Apple and Microsoft [] . While this may be true, I'm not willing to be a part of it.

In using Google's search [] , Gmail [] , Chrome [] or whatever else the faceless robot [] of a company invents, the user is surrendering their personal information to a giant hivemind [] . No longer are their personal preferences some choice they make; they're a string of data processed by a Google algorithm: Google dehumanizes [] its users!

So while Google is arrogant enough to paint spyware shiny so it can parse our browsing habits, the least they could do is make sure it doesn't crash. If Apple, Microsoft, and Mozilla can get their preview releases right, why can't Google? And now they're making their own operating [] systems [] ?

Get real, Google! I'll use your crashing codebloat when my Mac is cold and dead and I'm looking for handouts. Until then, quit mining [] my personal data!

No wonder my honeymoon photos are all over 4chan (3, Funny)

slick_rick (193080) | about 5 years ago | (#28783161)

Stupid geek squad!

Re:No wonder my honeymoon photos are all over 4cha (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28783239)

...only in the chubby threads...

-- Ethanol-fueled. Captcha: conquered

Re:No wonder my honeymoon photos are all over 4cha (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28783437)

You should have STUCK IT IN HER POOPER!!

Keep that in mind next time you marry!

Big deal (1, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about 5 years ago | (#28783181)

No one should be surprised at this. People snoop and overcharge. If you want your privacy respected, don't give anyone else access to your computer. If you don't want to be overcharged, learn a thing or two about your PC so you can fix it yourself.

Re:Big deal (5, Insightful)

Renraku (518261) | about 5 years ago | (#28783229)

Yeah, people do snoop and overcharge. It's a fact of life, but it's a fact of life that can get you sued, put in jail, or worse.

Add to that the fact that any half-way decent technician would testify that testing the seating/connection of things is the first or second thing on the list they do when it comes to hardware troubleshooting, and you're already deep into scam territory.

I'd bet the places involved would have been happy to sell you $400 refurb 100GB hard drives, re-sticker CPUs, and sell pirated copies of Windows, too.

Re:Big deal (5, Insightful)

DJLuc1d (1010987) | about 5 years ago | (#28783319)

As simple as that might sound to someone who knows enough to fix their own computer, a lot of gandmas and grandpas just aren't going to learn how to fix a machine. They need help, and that is why tech shops will always exist, and while there are plenty of legit operations, there are always going to be a few bad apples. I would personally be out of work if everyone knew how to fix their own machine. It's like saying "If you don't want a mechanic to overcharge you, learn to fix your own car", which is good advice, but to be realistic, I don't have the time to spend pouring over a 1999 Pontiac Grand Am manual when I need my car up and running in a day.

Re:Big deal (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28783639)

Which proves a point. If you are pouring over the grand am manual, you ain't fixing the car.

You need to be looking at the Manufacturer Repair manual set, and that's only if you cant spot and fix it without the manual like most competent techs do.

It's just education and aptitude, I've forgotten more about cars, electronics, and computers than most people have learned in their lifetime. but I put education as a priority, so I spend most of my time learning.

Computers are far more complex than any car. Cars motorcycles and engines are incredibly simple compared to a computer. Yes even the new crap with VVT and hybrid technology. Internal combustion and Mechanics are dog simple.

Re:Big deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28783673)

while there are plenty of legit operations, there are always going to be a few bad apples.

RTFA, there were plenty of bad apples and only one legit operations.

Re:Big deal (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28783333)

Better yet, make friends with a geek.

Re:Big deal (4, Interesting)

ls671 (1122017) | about 5 years ago | (#28783721)

Well, I tell people that I am outdated with regards to fixing computers, I used to do it when I started to play with computers but now the time I would spend fixing my aunt virus infected computer would make me loose too much money compared to spending that time on my regular work.

So maybe competent people do not want to do this kind of work, I don't anyway...

They have stopped to call me since a while and this is a good thing, charging them more than the price of the computer to fix it wouldn't fly and that is what it costs me in lost income ;-))

Re:Big deal (1)

changedx (1338273) | about 5 years ago | (#28783335)

A third option: find a trusted PC repairman. At the very least, find a tech-savvy friend to recommend one to you. Not everyone has the time or aptitude to learn basic PC servicing.

Re:Big deal (4, Insightful)

eln (21727) | about 5 years ago | (#28783445)

No one should be surprised, but that doesn't mean it's not a big deal. What you have here is an entire industry (PC Repair) that apparently specializes in ripping off its customers and preying on their ignorance. Is it okay if my mechanic rips me off because I don't know how to overhaul my own engine? Or if my accountant steals my identity because I don't have the time or the inclination to decipher the tax code? Sure, you and I might know how to fix computers because computers fascinate us and we like to learn how they work. The average person, though, sees their computer as a tool, and doesn't care to know how to fix it. They call a PC Repairman to fix their computer when it acts up, just like they take the car to a mechanic when it won't start or call a plumber when there's water dripping from the ceiling. Yes, there are practitioners in all of these professions that specialize in ripping people off, but that doesn't mean it's acceptable behavior.

Re:Big deal (5, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | about 5 years ago | (#28783539)

If you don't want to be overcharged, learn a thing or two about your PC so you can fix it yourself.

      Your comment goes against the very essence of civilization.

      Why should I invest time and resources to turn myself into a "computer specialist", instead of using a means of wealth exchange "money" to hire a REAL specialist to do the job for me? Then I can continue to be good at MY special job - medicine - and have my needs met by a more efficient specialist, in terms of time and other resources.

      Of course it all breaks down when a) the "specialist" in question is probably no more qualified than I am; and b) the "specialist" in question is actively trying to defraud me of my money or possessions.

      It's no wonder that philosophers have been complaining ever since ancient Greece about the value of ethics and morals in a society. You just can't run one without them. Of course you can use other tactics - fear, oppression, etc to TRY to maintain order, but these are incredibly wasteful. History teaches us what always happens when you put a lot of power in the hands of just a few men.

Re:Big deal (2, Interesting)

maxume (22995) | about 5 years ago | (#28783593)

Much of western economic success is predicated on trust.

When people exploit trust, bad shit happens (see 2008). When trust doesn't exist, it is much more difficult to trade. Trade is good. Thus shitting on trust is a big deal.

And please don't pigeonhole me into 'all trade is good', I am talking about beneficial trade between two parties (with minimal externalities). Or does everyone want to grow their own food?

More popular option (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28783601)

Make friends with a computer geek, so you can ask him to fix your computer for you, for free, as a personal favor.

It also seems that if you have a computer geek in the family, such favors are obligatory by default, without any friendly reciprocation required.

I used to not mind (being the geek, that is). I got bitter about it after enough people were only friendly to me when they need something, and basically ignored me otherwise. Only once did an attractive woman who I had been trying to date string me along to get computer repair services for her parents. I dropped her like a hot i7 with silicone thermal paste.

!surprising (1, Insightful)

evil_aar0n (1001515) | about 5 years ago | (#28783183)

I'm not surprised, sad to say - people can be very unscrupulous - but how do you prevent this? Under *NIX, you can separate a lot of your data from the OS. But under Windows, with its registry, it's a little more difficult.

If I couldn't fix it myself, I'd at least put in a blank drive before I took it in to a repair center.

Re:!surprising (3, Interesting)

nahdude812 (88157) | about 5 years ago | (#28783457)

The problem of course being that people who take their computers to repair shops almost certainly lack the technical chops to be putting in a blank drive, and aren't going to have a spare blank drive even if they technically knew how. Besides, sometimes the services they provide are things like installing device drivers, cleaning up spyware, etc. - the sorts of thing which requires the affected drive to be in place.

Anecdotally, the first laptop I ever owned was a Dell, and I had to send it in for service after it was damaged in a car accident. They did not require, but strongly recommended that I remove the drive before sending it to them. This was to safeguard both parties - they didn't want to have to even deal with the possibility that their technicians might do something unscrupulous (and were happy to have the indemnity that comes from them not even having the access to do so), but also protects the drive against damage from shipping (even if the parts are insured, the data is not).

Surprising? (4, Insightful)

Renraku (518261) | about 5 years ago | (#28783189)

This is what happens when you skip over qualified technicians to hire high school students or college dropouts who are 'good with computers' to save a little money.

Perhaps these companies should be sued, each and every one of them, for privacy violations. Maybe when the risk of hiring unqualified technicians is too high, they'll actually start to hire people with certifications and/or degrees for a sane amount of money.

No, $7.25/hr isn't a sane amount of money for a computer technician in the US.

Re:Surprising? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28783407)

"No, $7.25/hr isn't a sane amount of money for a computer technician in the US."

Haven't you heard? Supply vs demand, that's the free market. Computer techs are a dime a dozen and fixing a computer is not difficult, hence why you can hire teenagers to do it.

Re:Surprising? (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 5 years ago | (#28783409)

"$7.25/hr isn't a sane amount of money for a computer technician in the US."

That's why you need a tip jar.

Re:Surprising? (5, Insightful)

malloc (30902) | about 5 years ago | (#28783433)

This is what happens when you skip over qualified technicians to hire high school students or college dropouts who are 'good with computers' to save a little money.

Uh, no. This is what happens when you skip over reference checks/spending time to know your employees and hire unscrupulous technicians to save a little money.

"scouring through private photos, stealing passwords and over-charging for basic repairs" == moral problem, not a technical one.


Re:Surprising? (5, Interesting)

Renraku (518261) | about 5 years ago | (#28783485)

If they were being paid a decent wage, maybe they'd actually care about their jobs. Or, God forbid, take a little pride in it. Substandard pay will get you substandard workers. Even in this shitty economy we're in, there's no free lunch when it comes to the wage-worthiness continuum.

Re:Surprising? (1)

Chyeld (713439) | about 5 years ago | (#28783617)

This is what happens when you skip over qualified technicians to hire high school students or college dropouts who are 'good with computers' to save a little money.

Uh, no. This is what happens when you skip over reference checks/spending time to know your employees and hire unscrupulous technicians to save a little money.

"scouring through private photos, stealing passwords and over-charging for basic repairs" == moral problem, not a technical one.

I.E. High school kids and college dropouts, the only people willing to work for that amount of money doing that sort of work, and actually qualified somewhat to do the job. As OP stated.

Right on (1)

WiiVault (1039946) | about 5 years ago | (#28783467)

THANK YOU! Seriously I get so sick of people bitching and complaining about the "techs" at places like Geek Squad. You get what you pay for, when I worked there none of us were making over $10 an hour, and I being the new part time guy made I $7.50. Now this is no license to steal people's things, but it certainly explains why sub-par service is provided all around. If you are paying less than $15 an hour you are either getting somebody who is unqualified, or in the case of the guys I worked with simply didn't care.

Re:Surprising? (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | about 5 years ago | (#28783479)

There's a very big difference between incompetence and malice. I know plenty of high school students and college dropouts that I would trust not to do this sort of thing just as soon as anyone with a degree.

Honesty is far more important than a degree. After a month of working on machines, I'll take a completely unskilled hire I know to be honest over a slimeball with a boatload of certifications. 90% of engineering is trial and error, and the rest can be taught. I'd rather have a tech that tells me the repair will take 3 hours and does it than a tech who can do the same job in 5 minutes, but still tells me it's worth 3 hours of his time.

Teaching honesty - I don't think anyone's nailed that one.

Re:Surprising? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28783579)

90% of engineering is trial and error.

90% of PC repair is trial and error.

Don't go bringing that mentality into other engineering fields. You don't do bridge building by trial and error.

Re:Surprising? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28783499)

Certifications and/or degrees aren't the magic bullet you might think. Neither is the amount of money. Point is, there are those who commit these violations in every education and pay category, because of their corrupt/non-existent morals/ethics.
Yes, they are scumbags and they should be punished. But again, it's a few rotten apples who ruin it for the rest of us. I work in PC repairs and I do not get paid as well as I should, but do I go about snooping and stealing? No. Right is right and wrong is wrong,
I'm a professional and I've got a mission -- and this doesn't involve user's files except in terms of bulk cargo and/or content sanity checking (e.g., following a HDD rescue mission, which has bordered on failure).

Re:Surprising? (1)

netruner (588721) | about 5 years ago | (#28783507)

I have always built my own systems - and I have encountered very, very few (can count on one hand) the times that a repair was the most cost effective option. Usually when a PC has a problem that inhibits operation, it's time for a new one. They've pretty much reached the point that other electronic devices have - repairs cost more in labor than a new one would cost - not to mention that the technology advances so fast that finding parts is a problem (that's what happened to the last computer I had to take behind the woodshed).

Re:Surprising? (1)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | about 5 years ago | (#28783669)

Usually when a PC has a problem that inhibits operation, it's time for a new one. They've pretty much reached the point that other electronic devices have - repairs cost more in labor than a new one would cost...

If you're doing the repairs yourself what difference does labor make? You're not paying some 16 year old $50 to put in a stick of RAM (5 minutes of work) are you? Now with most laptops if you're out of the warranty and something breaks you're pretty screwed, I will give you that. Those parts are always all proprietary and insanely expensive. If you've got a desktop though, there's no reason you shouldn't be able to keep it going pretty easily for a good 4 or 5 years.

technology advances so fast that finding parts is a problem (that's what happened to the last computer I had to take behind the woodshed).

That may be true if you have to replace the motherboard but everything else is so cheap and plentiful there's no reason not to just replace that dead RAM or dying hard drive. A $20 stick of RAM is a lot cheaper than $1,000 for a new machine.

Re:Surprising? (1)

b4upoo (166390) | about 5 years ago | (#28783585)

I would tend to believe that if it can be shown that a store has an ongoing problem with techs violating peoples' privacy that a huge law suit would succeed. After all, employers are supposed to have good supervision over employees.

Re:Surprising? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28783597)

I've found certs mean almost nothing. I've found the dumbest of checklist chimps that have managed to get a cert or a degree. And certs say nothing about the ethical nature of an individual.

People that behave unethically when they feel that they are not being watched or their customer is too ignorant to watch them can never be paid enough to stop behaving unethically.

Most techs I work with don't get paid hourly. They share a significant percentage of each job. This nets to a very nice hourly rate. And yet some of them will reassign calls from other techs stealing from their own friends and co-workers. Give customers their direct lines and try to steal the entire call. And steal customer lists and inventory even being paid 10x or MORE than 7.25/hr. For these types of people there is no fair rate that would make them stop stealing.

I've found more mature people with real responsibilities: mortgages, children, etc. do better then purely smarter people with little responsibilities and ethics. And I've found certs mean almost nothing when it comes to evaluating a persons ethics or even their deductive skills.

Re:Surprising? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 5 years ago | (#28783663)

Save a little money?

They are paying Whore prices for The current techs. a competent and honest tech should be getting at MINIMUM $18-$22 an hour. They prefer to hire worthless idiots at the lowest wage possible that have the dirt cheap and easy to get A++ certification.

FTA.... (1)

bdrees (1015815) | about 5 years ago | (#28783195)

FTA... "Yet he then begins browsing through our hard drive. A folder marked 'Private' is opened and he flicks through our researcher's holiday photographs, including intimate snaps of her wearing a bikini. He stares at picture after picture, stopping only to show them to colleagues. He then picks up the phone and calls our researcher. He tells her our motherboard is faulty and will need to be replaced. Usually it costs £130 but he'll do it for £100. We tell him we'll think about it and call him tomorrow." Wonder what the press left out of this one?!?!?!

And... (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | about 5 years ago | (#28783217)

stealing photos and documents, as well as login details for email and bank accounts

Address book lists, songs, movies, p0rn....

Deliberately breaking the motherboard? (5, Interesting)

pjt33 (739471) | about 5 years ago | (#28783237)

While the stuff all the reports are picking up on is certainly not good, the most shocking bit is near the end of the article:

Meanwhile, at Evnova Computers in Barbican the loose memory chip was also spotted and fixed. But the company also told us we needed a new motherboard. We declined the offer and collected our laptop. When we examined it, we discovered technicians had soldered the memory bus pins together to recreate the original fault. Evnova later claimed it believed we were from a rival repair company.

So they catch onto the fact that it's not a genuine customer and they think that a bit of criminal damage is the best thing to do?

Re:Deliberately breaking the motherboard? (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 5 years ago | (#28783315)

That's pretty incredibly evil. I mean, who are they hiring, ex-pimps that got AAA+ certification in prison?

Re:Deliberately breaking the motherboard? (1)

Renraku (518261) | about 5 years ago | (#28783355)

Hopefully they at least get taken to court for destruction of property, with a little fraud/theft-by-deception on the side.

But hey, if auto mechanics can't be held civilly/criminally responsible for repairing/replacing things that don't need to be replaced, or saying they've done work but haven't, then there's a good chance Evnova Computers won't be held responsible for their actions, either.

Re:Deliberately breaking the motherboard? (1)

nahdude812 (88157) | about 5 years ago | (#28783501)

The difference being that your mechanic isn't (presumably) going out of his way to damage existing perfectly functional parts, as Evnova Computers did according to the article.

Re:Deliberately breaking the motherboard? (1)

maxume (22995) | about 5 years ago | (#28783637)

There is legislation in my state (Michigan) requiring that mechanics make the broken parts available for inspection. Guess why.

Re:Deliberately breaking the motherboard? (5, Interesting)

jorghis (1000092) | about 5 years ago | (#28783381)

+5 Gullible. :) It is very unlikely that they realized it wasnt a legit customer. If they had realized they were being watched they probably would have been on their best behaviour. That sounds more like an excuse than anything. More likely is that they were afraid the customer would go someplace else and get it fixed without needing a new motherboard thus discovering that Evnova's advice was bad. So they broke the motherboard on purpose to make their claim that a new motherboard was needed more credible and likely to be confirmed by the next shop.

Re:Deliberately breaking the motherboard? (1)

Last_Available_Usern (756093) | about 5 years ago | (#28783481)

That doesn't make any sense. If they really believed the request for repair was made by a competitor, they would have done EVERYTHING to make themselves look as good as possible, which certainly wouldn't have included inflating the bill with unnecessary charges.

Part of the CYA environment... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28783241)

I've found you should always image the hard drive before you do anything. How many people bring you a fucked up box, with some lame explanation of the problem, then freak out when you didn't read their mind?

Before you do anything, image the drive. Sorry if that means stealing their porn and personal documents. More sorry I have to cover my ass with every goddamned clueless windows user!

PC Repair Scams (4, Interesting)

Reason58 (775044) | about 5 years ago | (#28783249)

You mean to tell me the kind of shop that would charge $50 to install a stick of RAM [] might behave in a less than ethical manner? NO!

Re:PC Repair Scams (5, Insightful)

inviolet (797804) | about 5 years ago | (#28783389)

You mean to tell me the kind of shop that would charge $50 to install a stick of RAM might behave in a less than ethical manner? NO!

Unfair criticism. They are not charging for the act of snaping a DIMM in place, any more than that engineer in the famous story is charging to draw an X in white chalk. Rather, they are charging for the expertise to handle any issues that result from the memory change. (Windows Genuine Advantage rejection for the win!)

Re:PC Repair Scams (2, Informative)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 5 years ago | (#28783679)

Ok, how many times has that happened that they actually fixed?

The one time I used Geek Squad it was with this all-in one PC (think of it as a PC iMac, the only reason I really used them is because I had no experience with all-in-ones and there was no easy way of taking the case off that I thought would go back together nicely (it was all plastic you had to snap apart) add with that a lost instruction manual and I had something I really didn't feel comfortable taking apart. Long story short they manged to break the case, didn't acknowledge that they broke it, than about a week later the motherboard died (the original problem was faulty RAM). They denied any involvement with it. Since then I haven't used Geek Squad. My favorite is how they tried to get me to pay $20 to install a PCI wireless card, I think plugging a cartridge into a SNES is harder than installing a PCI card.

Re:PC Repair Scams (4, Insightful)

WiiVault (1039946) | about 5 years ago | (#28783497)

Here's the real rub. While their charging you $50 to install ram, they are paying the guy who does it $8.50 an hour.

Re:PC Repair Scams (5, Insightful)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 5 years ago | (#28783529)

I'm sorry, that for you $50 is too much.

To me, it is called Minimum Bench Time. You need bench work in my shop, I'd charge you $50 Minimum. But that gets you a 1/2 hour of tech time to answer other questions you might have.

But if you bought RAM from me, I'd install it for you, for free. But you'd complain that I charge 30% more than some mail order place and is ripping people off there too.

Then you complain that places like Best Buy hire idiots who don't know shit to answer your highly technical questions even when you're not intending to even buy whatever at that store.

Yeah, I know who you are. You're the stupid tech that gives everyone else's time and effort away for free, because you can do it yourself for nothing, and you shop and think you're all that and a box of chocolates because if it.

I love you. You create more customers for me.

Some people don't want to run around for days trying to figure out how to save that last few $ you claim is ripping people off, in this case $50 bench fee.

My customers know I'm not the cheapest, but I am fair. What they get is ME, and I'm priceless compared to you. They know they can call me anytime and get me, and I'll give them good advice, and treat them with respect. And they get peace of mind, which is worth something to them.

So, thank you! Really, I mean it.

Re:PC Repair Scams (1)

b4upoo (166390) | about 5 years ago | (#28783609)

Perhaps they are trying to replicate practices of the medical community. Doctors, hospitals and labs as well as pharmaceutical firms are the uber elite of robbers.

Re:PC Repair Scams (1)

Seakip18 (1106315) | about 5 years ago | (#28783621)

Lesee...considering most of their clientele might say, "I think I need more storage memory. Something about Virtual Memory low?"

Geeksquad has to first, before all else, pay for coverage in case the tech drops the computer on his foot and hurts him and the computer or the computer, for some arsonist reason, catches fire and burns the building down. Even though there is the release waiver, someone who gets back a shattered mobo when they only wanted RAM is going to demand a repayment. All of this has to be paid just in case, before anything can happen.

Then they need to have a tech be able to make a call on what RAM type, how much and if it'll fit into the machine. The actual labor is maybe $10 worth. It's another $15 to know how to exactly do it. Another $25 in overhead, liability and profit. They're making some change all right, but I'd say not as bad as $115/hr company I've heard say it would take 45 minutes to do everything.

Me? I'd charge $25(brought to me, otherwise $45 for me to come to them) and a 5% markup on the ram, but I'm not dealing with idiots that might try to force DDR2 RAM into a DDR3 slot.

Other companies (3, Informative)

Demonantis (1340557) | about 5 years ago | (#28783259)

I know HP does it. I don't know of anyone else, but they tell you not to send the hard drive in with your computer for warranty items. I myself would want to stand there while the technician fixed it. I don't let contractors into my house when I'm not there and this is the exact same thing.

Re:Other companies (1)

WiiVault (1039946) | about 5 years ago | (#28783537)

Thats pretty sad that it is such an unmanageable problem that HP has basically given up policing their workforce. Granted stuff like this will always happen given a large enough pool of employees. But to throw up the white flag and give up is pretty sad.

Re:Other companies (1)

Jarjarthejedi (996957) | about 5 years ago | (#28783645)

I wouldn't call it throwing up the white flag so much as removing the possibility without affecting the service. For 90% of computer hardware problems the hard drive is unnecessary, the computer can be fixed without it so long as something is there to boot off of. Why then would you have the unnecessary risk of having customers leave the drive in your possession? It won't do you any good, and it means your techs could abuse their jobs or the customer could complain about you breaking their data. Far better to leave the HD with the customer.

When will we get modular hard drives? (2, Insightful)

GPLDAN (732269) | about 5 years ago | (#28783309)

All tower cases should come with a diagnostic boot drive. The days of feeding IDE and SATA cables and screwing hard drives into place has to stop. The tech to make snap in hard drives has been there for a long time.

I keep a cheap HD with KNOPPIX Maxi ready. I would always swap it in, if I ever bothered to let a hardware tech touch my machine. I have in the past, but only because they can diagnose motherboard issues and I cannot.

Re:When will we get modular hard drives? (1)

guruevi (827432) | about 5 years ago | (#28783393)

Many computers already have this. Most servers have trays, trays are available for single installation as well. Mac Pro's have some type of slide you need to mount to the bottom of the drive. Dell has something similar although you still need to route cables.

Well.... (2, Informative)

SGDarkKnight (253157) | about 5 years ago | (#28783325)

Too bad there are companies like this out there, when i stopped working for a PC repair shop (espically when i stopped doing alot of repair work on the side), I had alot of my old customers ask me if they should keep taking their systems back to the same shop, or to another shop. The best advice i could give them for hardware related problems was to tell whoever was fixing the systems, that they wanted any original hardware returned to them.

Software, always been a problem... anything you store on your systems is fair game to whoever is fixing it. The best advice i was able to give to my old customers for their sensitive information was not to store it on the computer at all. Pick up a couple thumb drives and store any documents, passwords, etc... on those drives to keep it seperate.

Im sure there are more of us out there that have given the same advice.

There should be no expectancy of privacy... (2)

jornak (1377831) | about 5 years ago | (#28783345)

As a computer technician myself (and no, I'm not just "good with computers"), people have asked me to back up anything and everything I can find, i.e. pictures, word documents, etc.

In order to do my job, I must sometimes look through the computer (i.e. Windows Search or just browsing through directories on the root of the drive). If I happen to run into nude pictures of the person I am fixing the computer for, then I treat them like any other picture and back them up.

Heck, next thing the media's going to say is that using simple password editors/removers to get into Windows accounts for repairs is wrong.

Re:There should be no expectancy of privacy... (1)

Renraku (518261) | about 5 years ago | (#28783431)

There's a difference between things that are in plain view, and things that are hidden properly. Plain view means it's sitting there on the desktop for the world to see, or that it's in some ambiguously named folder that you have to open to see if it has anything to backup. Hidden means it's in the usual suspects as far as places that store information/pictures, as well as aptly-named folders.

There's no way to prevent accidental viewing of pictures sometimes, but there's no reason someone should be loading up media/documents/passwords onto their own personal flash drive for later review.

Technicians like that give computer shops a bad name, as if they didn't already have one, $400-refurb-10GB hard drives and all.

Steal passwords (1)

pudding7 (584715) | about 5 years ago | (#28783351)

How do you steal passwords from a computer? Login details for Facebook and bank accounts, were they saved in a Notepad file or something? I don't understand this part.

Re:Steal passwords (5, Informative)

goobermaster (1263770) | about 5 years ago | (#28783379)

Probably saved passwords in Firefox or whatever equivalent they were using. If you are not using a master password, one can just hit 'show passwords' to get em all.

Since most people don't like typing their passwords in each time, if someone has used a particular browser for a long time, it can be a goldmine of access info and details.

Re:Steal passwords (1)

pudding7 (584715) | about 5 years ago | (#28783405)

wow. I had no idea that feature was there. You learn something every day, thanks.

Re:Steal passwords (4, Informative)

HBI (604924) | about 5 years ago | (#28783415)


Tools->Options->Security->Saved Passwords->Show Passwords

This is only a trivial example.

Re:Steal passwords (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28783423)

Probably saved in the web browser. I know that in Firefox if you don't set a master password there's nothing to stop someone from seeing all your saved passwords.

Re:Steal passwords (4, Informative)

jorghis (1000092) | about 5 years ago | (#28783449)

Not quite from the article, but from an article linked to by it at the bottom of the story:

"...Inside one of the documents copied to the memory stick was a text file containing passwords for Facebook, Hotmail, eBay and a NatWest bank account.

Once the technician had discovered this information, he opened a web browser on the laptop and attempted to log into the back account for around five minutes.

The only reason he was unsuccessful was because the details were fake....."

Re:Steal passwords (1)

donnyspi (701349) | about 5 years ago | (#28783451)

snadboy's revelation

Not Surprising...To be expected. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28783361)

When I used to repair computers, we almost always looked at the customer's porn cache. I never looked for financial data, no interest in it but if you had a stash of hot asian girl porn, it was getting pilfered.

It almost happened to me (2, Interesting)

bogaboga (793279) | about 5 years ago | (#28783365)

I upgraded my system to 1GB of RAM which it recognized properly. But after using it for about 3 weeks, I got a "PCI.SYS is corrupt or missing" error on boot.

When I called my support folks, I was told that I would need to either replace the motherboard or reinstall Windows XP. These are folks I had told what I had done to the system including the RAM upgrade. In any case, I would have had to spend in excess of US$220!

What I did was to remove the "offending" RAM and everything was good as normal.

My question though is why would the system work for three weeks before throwing the PCI.SYS error?

Re:It almost happened to me (4, Informative)

Renraku (518261) | about 5 years ago | (#28783581)

If it's a RAM problem, and there's no way to tell in this case without further testing, it can manifest itself in all kinds of unusual ways. Random errors like this can happen. Instant reboots can happen, blue screens, general failures to boot, corrupted data, etc.

Easy enough to take the chip out and test it in a known-good computer using memtest, though.

Motherboard RAM-handling issues can sometimes pop up as well, especially if that particular RAM is the straw that broke the camel's back and overloads your power supply. If the port or controller is damaged, it can look similar to wonky RAM.

Of course, we all know that Windows is perfectly stable, too.

Either of those options they gave could possibly be correct. There's no way to tell without troubleshooting, though.

Re:It almost happened to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28783589)

I upgraded my system to 1GB of RAM which it recognized properly. But after using it for about 3 weeks, I got a "PCI.SYS is corrupt or missing" error on boot.

When I called my support folks, I was told that I would need to either replace the motherboard or reinstall Windows XP. These are folks I had told what I had done to the system including the RAM upgrade. In any case, I would have had to spend in excess of US$220!

What I did was to remove the "offending" RAM and everything was good as normal.

My question though is why would the system work for three weeks before throwing the PCI.SYS error?

Because the RAM chip was good when you put it in, and after 3 weeks of operation, it failed, and is just a bad ram chip.

Yet life goes on... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28783371)

I wouldn't leave bills in my car if I was going to a car mechanic, and I don't always trust them when they tell me something is wrong with my car without getting a second opinion. Why would it be any different in other similar industries?

It's not just the techs who are incompetent. The users who put personal information in something that they give to someone else put themselves at risk.

Re:Yet life goes on... (1)

fishbowl (7759) | about 5 years ago | (#28783681)

>I wouldn't leave bills in my car if I was going to a car mechanic

Why not leave the bait? A successful lawsuit against a dealer's bond will pay a lot of bills.

There's a sucker born every minute (2, Interesting)

davegravy (1019182) | about 5 years ago | (#28783419)

IMHO, introduction to PC anatomy and troubleshooting should be mandatory in the high school curriculum in today's day and age, and would go a long way to mitigating the problem.

no, they know what they're doing (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | about 5 years ago | (#28783429)

They had to get the computer working to rummage through the private stuff, right?

(yeah, I know they could yank the drive and put it in another machine but run with it for a minute here...)

Wait... (0)

ewhenn (647989) | about 5 years ago | (#28783439)

Wait... so what you are saying, is that there are dishonest people in the world who will steal or invade your privacy if they feel they won't get caught?

Thanks for this new and amazing "research".

I'm sick and tired of "I got overcharged" BS (0, Troll)

MistrBlank (1183469) | about 5 years ago | (#28783465)

If you aren't smart enough to do it yourself, you pay for it. Plain and simple. I don't bitch when I have to pay to get my car scanned when the check engine light comes on. It doesn't take much work there either, plug a device in, (maybe) turn the car on and read the error code from the device. The newer readout's will even pinpoint the problem now, not just tell some random diagnostic code that has to be looked up. Some of those places charge up to $100 just for the scan, particularly if you opt to not have any work done. Seems to me that's comparable to paying $50 if you're afraid of opening your case and installing memory on your system.

Re:I'm sick and tired of "I got overcharged" BS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28783727)

The report was nothing about the price for the advertised services. They are talking about essentially charging for services they didn't do. Plugging in the memory, ok fine, and I'm sure it's a $50 fee for that, no big deal. Then calling up the customer, telling them they have a motherboard issue and saying it's an additional $200, that is a big deal.

That's not the mechanic charging you $100 to plug in a device and push a button, That's a mechanic charging you $100 to plug in the device, finding out all that you need is an oil change, but telling you the radiator is out and it's another $500.

Re:I'm sick and tired of "I got overcharged" BS (1)

maxume (22995) | about 5 years ago | (#28783743)

Autozone and so forth will usually hook up a scan tool for free.

How to get back at them (4, Funny)

russotto (537200) | about 5 years ago | (#28783475)

1) Collect images of goatse, lemonparty, etc
2) Move to folder marked "Private"
3) Loosen memory chip
4) Bring computer to snoopy repair shop.
5) Laugh as crooked tech's scream "Augghh, my eyes!"

(there is no ???, but there also is no profit. Sorry)

How does the web camera work w/o working OS? (1)

assantisz (881107) | about 5 years ago | (#28783495)

I am a little confused about the first part of the story. It says: Yet the spy software later revealed something extraordinary. The webcam shows that almost immediately the technician discovers our loose memory chip and clicks it back into position [based on recorded boot and shut down times]." How did the webcam record how the technician opened the laptop and snapped the memory module back in place? I assume it was not the webcam but the log files that told the story?

seriously who expected anything else? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28783521)

thats what you get if you give children a console instead of a pc.
they do not learn how a computer works... and
  they wind up sending a broken pc to a repair shop instead of fixing it them selves.

PC Work (2, Funny)

Sporkinum (655143) | about 5 years ago | (#28783523)

I don't like to do PC work for people that I work with. Just to keep things professional. So I sent some work to a friend of mine who was looking for some work. Initially he did a great job, and several people started spreading the word and got him a few more jobs. After a year or so, I started hearing complaints. Jobs not being done right or slowly, couldn't contact him, or couldn't get their machine back. One person at work ended up taking him to small claims court to get their computer back.

I found out later he was addicted to WOW and that was what was causing him to be a knob.

Not very surprising (2, Informative)

goobermaster (1263770) | about 5 years ago | (#28783541)

Most of these technician services are quite dodgy. For every one that offers honest service at a fair price, there are a hundred like the above, or like Geek Squad.

Here are some choice bits:
Set up a wireless router with encryption (=WEP, probably) = $150
Securely add another device to the above (=type in pass.) = $90
OS Upgrade and Update (=install Win and run wind. update) = $90
Data transfer up to 9.4 GB (=burn two prol. cheapo DVD-R) = $60
Online console setup (=config router for 360 to get Live) = $150

It is ridiculous that this is the state of the market - unqualified techs charging enormous amounts of money for trivial tasks. I realize that there are some honest, upstanding people in these companies, but the mass of those who are not drown the out. It is sad really, as I know some very qualified people who run a very honest and fairly priced business doing support/repairs, but they are bypassed by uninformed users who run to Geek Squad because 'at these prices you must be doing something dodgy'.

Not just in UK. (5, Interesting)

wvmarle (1070040) | about 5 years ago | (#28783563)

Just an example of in this case images copied from a laptop that was taken for repair. For anyone living in Hong Kong or following Cantopop, just think "Edison Chen". You will know what I'm talking about, it has been all over the media for a long long time.

For the rest of us: this is a famous singer/actor/etc around here. He took his laptop for repair once, and a year or so ago photos of him having sex with female stars started to appear on the Internet. Copied off of his laptop by the repairman who started snooping around the data on the hard disk after the repairs were finished. This repairman has got a jail term for that, by the way. And it all ballooned in the biggest entertainment story of cantopop in 2008, and probably the biggest in cantopop history.

For links: just search for "edison chen" on google. The first top-100 or so are about this scandal.

Re:Not just in UK. (4, Funny)

Brett Buck (811747) | about 5 years ago | (#28783729)

I think I will google for "cantopop" first...

Criminal Behavior (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28783571)

The spy software takes a snapshot of the files on his memory stick. This investigative behaviour is illegal. The Sky News researcher should face criminal charges for infringing on the privacy of these technicians. It is quite sickening that members of the press think that they are above the law. A clear message should be sent to any future investigative reporters by giving this Sky News researcher the maximum penalty under the law.

This is why... (1)

jbacon (1327727) | about 5 years ago | (#28783629)

This is why I do my own tech support. And tech support for everyone I know...

Encrypt your data. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28783647)

Encrypt everything and stop worrying. TrueCrypt is free.

Criminals Caught as a Result (1)

Dragon_Hilord (941293) | about 5 years ago | (#28783653)

Not to advocate the devil, but a few years ago, a local radio jockey was arrested when computer repair people found child porn on his laptop when he sent it in for work. I'm not sure if it was a blatant act of intrusion or if he was a complete idiot and left it out in the open, but it does show that sometimes it can do good. On that note, all people who meddle in the privacy of others deserve harsh punishment. Stealing passwords is in the realm of computer criminals, and shows what these people are: criminals. Don't trust the repair men... unless you already nuked the system.

Re:Criminals Caught as a Result (0, Flamebait)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 5 years ago | (#28783741)

Depends what you mean by "good". Especially when CP can be -anything-, heck even some forms of cartoons can be labeled as CP. No, it is not "good" that this can happen. Whats next someone getting put on the "terror watch list" and not being able to fly out of the country because a political activist had some documents that were critical of the current administration?

It's worse than that (1)

ferespo (899921) | about 5 years ago | (#28783703)

Here in Argentina. Sometimes the shops run out of spare parts. Then they take someone else almost functioning laptop and take the good parts out. They fix one computer and wait for the spare parts to arrive for repairing the lobotomized laptop. If they arrive, they will charge you for the old and new parts. If not, they would return your computer saying that they had not been able to repair it. So you get back your computer with far more problems than before.

Thats why i... (1)

s0litaire (1205168) | about 5 years ago | (#28783723)

...have a Ubuntu Live-CD loaded up with the diagnostic tools a need to hand. So when I get a Laptop, I boot it from the CD so that pesky Monitoring software that tuns the camera on and loads a key / screen logger does not start.

I then make an image of the hard drive then wipe it saying "sorry i found a key logger and rootkit spyware on the laptop so I had to wipe it..." It's up to the customer to make sure they have a backup...

I can then browse the image at my leisure, on machine not connected to any network..

Then I offer to recover their data from the hard drive for £200 and come back in the morning...(I just take the copy form the image i made earlier) easy money! ^__^

Car /Automobile repair scams (1)

ashvin213 (1602795) | about 5 years ago | (#28783733)

Are there similar horror stories about car repair?

GeekSquad and the like... (1)

trum4n (982031) | about 5 years ago | (#28783735)

...are a bunch of assholes give us GOOD repairmen bad names.
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