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Aaron Computer Rental Firm Spies On Users 510

Posted by timothy
from the they-learned-it-from-school-in-pennsylvania dept.
An anonymous reader writes with word from Yahoo news of a lawsuit "filed on behalf of a Wyoming couple who said they learned about the PC Rental Agent 'device and/or software' inside the computer they rented last year when an Aaron's Inc. store manager in Casper came to their home on Dec. 22. The manager tried to repossess the computer because he mistakenly believed the couple hadn't finished paying for it, the couple said. Brian Byrd, 26, said the manager showed him a picture of Byrd using the computer — taken by the computer's webcam. The image was shot with the help of spying software, which the lawsuit contends is made by North East, Pa.-based Designerware LLC and is installed on all Aaron's rental computers."
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Aaron Computer Rental Firm Spies On Users

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  • Whoops (Score:5, Informative)

    by bfmorgan (839462) on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @09:24PM (#36019650)
    These stupid companies think they can treat their customers like children and in the process shoot themselves in the foot.
  • Re:Rent a computer? (Score:4, Informative)

    by demonlapin (527802) on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @09:58PM (#36019898) Homepage Journal
    The people who take this deal don't qualify for better credit. If you ban rent-to-own or limit the interest rates, though, their choices actually get worse, not better. After all, the moment that it leaves the front door of the store, this laptop is a used piece of equipment owned by someone who can't swing several hundred dollars in spare cash (i.e., probably not the most fastidious owner). Shitty credit deals are all they're going to get, because nobody is going to loan them $1000 at 5% interest - the default risk is too high.
  • Re:Rent a computer? (Score:5, Informative)

    by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @10:05PM (#36019962) Journal

    My math says it's not so different from paying for a new PC with a credit card at not-very-favorable rates.

    And, in both cases, there is the opportunity to buy/pay off the thing at any time. Aaron's retail prices tend to be on the high side of things, but not outlandishly so (in my observation).

    And for some folks, renting is a distinct advantage: Why buy a thing, just to replace it a year or two later (and fuss with selling the old one), when you can just rent the current thing and have it replaced when it is deemed old?

    These aren't leases. They're just month-to-month (sometimes, week-to-week) rentals. Need a fast laptop for a project, with no foreseeable need for one after that? Just rent one.

    Want an additional comfy couch for the house and a big TV to watch "the game" on with your pals, and a dedicated fridge to keep the keg cold until it runs out, but have no desire for these things to take up long-term space? Rent 'em. They even drop them off and pick them up. (Hell, with the deposit for them, even the keg+tap might be considered to be a rental...)

    Of course, there's the dark side, as well: Want a new computer, long-term, but can't afford one? Rent-to-own might not be the most practical choice.

    All that said: I, myself, don't rent anything. I buy my houses and have my own name on the deed, I buy my cars, and I buy my electronics and furniture. I have rented apartments before, but got out of that game as quickly as possible. The closest thing I do to renting things, these days, is Netflix.

    But I'm not allergic to the concept.

    YMMV.

  • by johncandale (1430587) on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @10:15PM (#36020026)
    http://www.solresearch.org/~SOLR/rprt/LookNow.asp#Sct_1_NakedKidPics [solresearch.org] There have been many dozen cases of people taking pics of their baby kids in a bathtub or otherwise half dressed and successfully convicted. I pulled that link in about 10 seconds of google but I'm sure /. and others have better links. Please please read the news once and awhile so you know why people are upset about privacy going bye bye and the myth of "if you have nothing to hide..." Even if you won on appeal, you still have years of your life with the added stress of a young child ruined.
  • by grapeape (137008) <mpope7 AT kc DOT rr DOT com> on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @10:28PM (#36020106) Homepage

    Who in the hell would buy a computer from Rent A Center or Aaron Rents, etc. Computer speeds these days are primarily a luxury for home users...other than hardcore gamers there is very little that a person cant do with a 6 year old hand me down computer like you can pick up at yard sales for $50. I would say its a place for people with more money than sense...but of course its for people with no money and no sense. Their current flyer on their website shows a sempron based cheapo compaq for $99 a month for 12 months...not only is it a discontinues model but Microcenter about 8 miles away has the same one as a refurb for $249. I've been "broke ass poor" before but never stooped to that kind of gouging, I guess I just dont understand why anyone does.

  • Re:Whoops (Score:5, Informative)

    by avgjoe62 (558860) on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @10:41PM (#36020180)

    Funny. If you read TFA, you'll see that the couple in question had paid off the computer and now owned it outright. The store manager was mistakenly trying to repossess the computer and that revealed the spyware to them. So, obviously, they could afford the contract. Nothing clear about it.

    The point of the article is not poor people make bad decision, get computer repossessed. It was about a company still having spyware on a computer that was owned by their former customers.

  • Re:Whoops (Score:3, Informative)

    by dgatwood (11270) on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @11:37PM (#36020474) Journal

    Opportunity cost doesn't really play into it. You can always use computer labs at your school. A laptop is a low-ticket, nice-to-have item, which mean it should never, ever be purchased on credit.

    The average savings account in the U.S. contains somewhere on the order $20,000. Therefore, if you're buying anything on credit that costs more than an order of magnitude less than that, you are basically declaring yourself to be poor, complete with a giant, flashing neon sign. Because the working poor are more likely to default on loans, they get higher rates. The smaller the line of credit, the worse you get screwed. As a result, the people who can least afford credit are taken advantage of the most.

    Therefore, in general, unless what you are buying costs... I don't know, say 25% of the U.S. median annual income (about $12,500), you should not even consider buying it on credit. Save your money and pay cash. (One might make an exception for "cash back" credit cards, but only if you religiously pay them off at the end of every month.)

  • by captainkoloth (99341) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @01:07AM (#36020916)

    Unless there are additional details not disclosed on their kinda sleazy looking; but unabashed [pcrentalagent.com] website, the hardware component seems like it is either a mistake(perhaps referring to some sort of anti-theft tag?) or an additional feature specific to this major chain.

    If you look at the company's pricing information, it only quotes software licensing fees and prices for additional/replacement/updated install media. No mention of hardware components, much less the sort of model-specific inventory mess that any deep integration would require. Obviously, the information available on the seller's site for that offering doesn't preclude a custom offering for a large customer, with more robust features; but it also isn't as though lying about the existence of super-tough hardware security in order to reduce the risk that your clueless customer tries to have their nephew who "knows computers" install a cracked copy of XP on a "bricked" machine would be a terribly unlikely strategy...

    Unless there are additional details not disclosed on their kinda sleazy looking; but unabashed [pcrentalagent.com] website, the hardware component seems like it is either a mistake(perhaps referring to some sort of anti-theft tag?) or an additional feature specific to this major chain.

    If you look at the company's pricing information, it only quotes software licensing fees and prices for additional/replacement/updated install media. No mention of hardware components, much less the sort of model-specific inventory mess that any deep integration would require. Obviously, the information available on the seller's site for that offering doesn't preclude a custom offering for a large customer, with more robust features; but it also isn't as though lying about the existence of super-tough hardware security in order to reduce the risk that your clueless customer tries to have their nephew who "knows computers" install a cracked copy of XP on a "bricked" machine would be a terribly unlikely strategy...

    There appears to be something they add either through hardware or software than can require you to use a USB thumb drive as a key. Check out the accessories page. I'm going to say that it's both hardware and software.
    "Require an unLock device like a CD or a USB Thumb Drive to always be available or the device locks. It will not work unless the unLock device is found."

  • Re:Whoops (Score:4, Informative)

    by mwvdlee (775178) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @02:05AM (#36021114) Homepage

    (I'm used to it, we PC repairmen are like plumbers that way)

    No we're not.
    We don't star in computer games and we don't appear in cheezy porn.

  • Re:Whoops (Score:3, Informative)

    by JSombra (1849858) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @02:08AM (#36021132)
    Around 2008 average saving per year for Americans was less than $400, though from what i have heard, due to the shaky economy it has now risen a little bit
  • Re:Whoops (Score:2, Informative)

    by evanism (600676) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @03:07AM (#36021426) Journal

    People in the USA are still SAVING? By god. You are all about to be wiped out by hideous deflation then hyperinflation over the next 12 months. Cash is the last thing you want.

  • Re:Rent To Own (Score:5, Informative)

    by GeckoAddict (1154537) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @07:01AM (#36022572)
    The rule you're describing is simple, pay things in the following order of priority:
    Loans and payments that can't be discharged in bankruptcy (student loans, child support, etc.)
    Secured debt (house, auto)
    Unsecured debt (credit card, medical, etc)

    And as someone who just had to do it: my wife had a medical emergency that required surgery, and we owed a few grand that I didn't have at the time. I called them up, they asked 'can you afford $150/month? Yes, OK, that will be your payment at 0% until paid'. Medical places would much rather get paid slowly than not get paid at all.

We warn the reader in advance that the proof presented here depends on a clever but highly unmotivated trick. -- Howard Anton, "Elementary Linear Algebra"

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