There was never a better time than now to know enough about computers, software, and the internet to make informed decisions. Retailers know that the technically illiterate are easy targets to charge for unnecessary repairs, installation, and software. You may end up spending thousands of dollars on computer parts or services that you absolutely don’t need, if you’re not careful. Even some of the most well-known electronics stores have been caught ripping off customers.
Technical Illiteracy Costs You
Without basic computer knowledge, nearly anyone can trick a computer user into thinking something is wrong with their system, manipulating them into paying for unnecessary (and expensive) software or repairs. There’s also a huge marketing effort that targets people with keywords like “speed up your sluggish PC by installing our software.” Would you allow someone into your house, without knowing who they are or what they were doing inside your home? Why would you install something on your PC without knowing who it’s from or what it does? The end result is losing thousands of dollars, as a consumer.
In November 2016, CBS News reported how Office Depot misled customers and sold them unnecessary parts and services. Several Office Depot locations were observed during the investigation. There were numerous instances where store employees told customers that their computers were infected with malware or needed repairs. Each of the computers were previously checked out by computer technicians before the investigation. No such issues existed and the computers were perfectly fine. In one case, an Office Depot store quoted someone $180 in costs, which was completely unnecessary, according to a majority of computer experts.
When questioned, several store employees said that they were pressured to say anything to sell repair services to customers in order to meet quotas set by management.
ULTRA TechLife has previously conducted investigations of Best Buy’s Geek Squad. The retailer offers computer installation and repair services at most of their retail locations. Nearly all of our findings involved overpriced fees for unnecessary services. In many instances, we were told to simply buy a new computer (nothing was wrong with our existing computer). Similar results have occurred with news media investigating Geek Squad computer services. For example, WBRC was charged for services never rendered. Interestingly enough, previous Geek Squad employees have also admitted that the company has ripped off thousands of customers as a regular practice.
PC World has an interesting article with pieces from a former Geek Squad employee, which pointed out that a majority of employees lack computer troubleshooting skills. You might want to get your repairs done somewhere else.
It’s not just major retail stores ripping off people, it’s also smaller computer shops. You can get ripped off for tech support in the store and online.
Forbes has also recently highlighted how internet tech support scammers are using ransomware techniques. Ransomware goes a step further in scamming people into paying money for things they don’t need by displaying false information that scares the unsuspecting person into paying. Ransomware can be programmed to display a full screen warning message, lock a computer, shut down a browser, or even disable an internet connection. This scam tactic often displays a page with information on how to make a payment, in order to make it go away, which is clearly extortion and blackmail.
Unsuspecting people can mistake ransomware as an official message that requires them to give away personal information, bank account, or credit card details. Often, the scammers will ask the target to buy an untraceable gift card and give them the card number.
The solution for consumer is to have a basic level of computer and internet competency. Know what an application is, a little bit about computer security, malware, viruses, home firewalls, scams, and the basic parts of a computer. Reading up on the latest scams, as discussed by experts, will also help you understand the real threats out there. Use a reputable, certified computer technician for servicing your computers and printers. You can always search the internet for average prices of repairs or solutions to your technical problems, before taking your computer into a major retail store.
Now is the time to take that class on computer applications, networking, internet security, or do your own studying to get a basic competency in computer software and hardware. You could save a lot of money by knowing when and how much you need to spend on your computer.