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Undercover Cameras Catch PC Repair Scams, Privacy Violations 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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Undercover Cameras Catch PC Repair Scams, Privacy Violations

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  • Halfway Competent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jack9 ( 11421 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:20PM (#28783153)

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

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:23PM (#28783209)

      Fully competent engineers make the best PC repairmen.

      Halfway competent engineers should stick to engineering.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by fishbowl ( 7759 )

        >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: (Score:3, Funny)

          by FatdogHaiku ( 978357 )

          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?

          Because they get to steal photos and documents, as well as login details for email and bank accounts...
          I'm pretty sure they don't report the revenue from those activities either, so it's like an untaxed bonus.
          Education alone does not insure honesty or integrity.

          • Re:Halfway Competent (Score:5, Interesting)

            by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <> on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @02:01PM (#28784801) Journal

            The really sad part is why they will never bust the shops for it here in the USA. Child porn. How many times have you read about some perv sends his PC to Worst Buy and gets busted for child porn? Want to know why they always get busted for it?

            Because half the guys at these shops, and I'd say a good 85% of the ones working at worst buy from what I've been told by guys that worked there, carry USB HDDs with batch files set up to scour PCs for *.jpg, *.avi, etc. While some are looking for cc in info as well nearly all of them are looking for vids pics and tunes to rip off. That is why I run my own little shop. Doesn't pay as well, but I don't feel like a sleazebag either. Did any of my customers have child porn? I wouldn't know, because I only go to the desktop and Windows folder. I also warn my customers beforehand if there is something they wouldn't their grandma to see in there don't ask me to back up My Documents, since I will be seeing all the file names if I run a backup. So the worst I've had to deal with is some girl who liked to take pics of herself with her webcam and couldn't get the PC to boot to desktop. Do I have copies? Nope, wasn't none of my business so I didn't look at them. She simply told me beforehand after I gave her my granny speech.

            But as long as the sleazebags working at places like Worst Buy call the cops whenever they find any child porn nobody will ever bust them. Cops don't bust good snitches, even when the snitch is doing illegal activity like looking for cc info and other stuff to steal. Best Buy corporate? Not going to bust them as long as they are willing to work for those shitty wages. So sadly while I don't know how it is in the UK, here the sleazebags will be able to do whatever they want as long as they throw the cops a bone once in awhile. Me? It ain't my job to prowl through somebodies PC looking for stuff to steal or snitch on, so I don't. I may have to work a little harder for me pay but at least I don't feel like a sleazebag.

            • Re:Halfway Competent (Score:4, Interesting)

              by Gilmoure ( 18428 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @02:47PM (#28785505) Journal

              Working as a desktop computer tech for the last 18 years, yeah, you do get to see a lot of cool stuff. About the coolest was a pallet of used machines from an ad agency. We used them as parts for our mom-n-pop repair place I worked at. I had the job of going through all of them and seeing what would boot, etc. Found a CD in one, full of next two year's Chevrolet designs. I'm a car buff and hadn't seen too much in the mags yet. Really tempted to share that info but ended up contacting the company. They just said to destroy the disk. Didn't seem too concerned. Weird!

              Now, working at a small college doing tech support, students these days have no shame. It's all out on the desktop. Pretty wild.

              With all the exposure to personal info, I wonder when computer techs will be held to confidentiality standards like doctors, lawyers, and accountants? Will we have to wear ties?

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by hairyfeet ( 841228 )

                Nice to see I'm not the only honest repair man left. I have been doing it for nearly 15 years myself, and know exactly what you mean, especially when it comes to getting used boxes. I was once given a load of throw aways from a teleco, and damned if they didn't even bother wiping them! Names, cc info, accounts, the whole nine yards were on them. I just ran a DoD wipe from CD and reprocessed them.

                And you are SO right about the college kids. If I had a dollar for every kid that filled his My Docs with shot

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          The last 4 posts also apply to car stealerships. Most of the time the mechanics have no clue, and they just keep replacing parts hoping the new part will make the problem go away. I had a wheel that was vibrating and the mechanic replaced the bearings, then the struts, then the steering connection... it went-awy but came back just a week later.

          Eventually I was "lucky" enough to get a flat tire, and the local mechanic that fized my tire happened to be competent. He said the vibrating wheel just needed was

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by z80kid ( 711852 )
            Low brake fluid shouldn't cause a vibrating tire either.

            I'm guessing that he pulled the tire off the rim to patch it from the inside. When he put the tire back on the rim, he balanced [] it. That's what stopped the vibration.

            If the brake fluid was low enough to screw with the ABS unit, then you needed more than a tip off. You needed the brakes bled.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by laing ( 303349 )
            Maybe you needed a new muffler bearing? Or perhaps some more blinker fluid? A good source of these hard-to-find products is KaleCoAuto [].
        • Re:Halfway Competent (Score:5, Informative)

          by berzerke ( 319205 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @01:36PM (#28784363) Homepage

          ...why would someone qualified for a profession who can earn upwards of $100,000 per year, work in PC repair...

          Because those $100K jobs are few and far between and usually go to people with connections. Don't believe those salary surveys. Those that have great paying jobs are easy to find. Those that have given up on engineering because they can't get a job or have low paying jobs are generally not as easy to find and therefore excluded from the surveys. Result: Surveys don't represent reality.

          How do I know this? I have a master's degree in chemical engineering plus my state EIT (Engineer In Training) cert, but have been working in the computer field since 1997. I got laid off and couldn't get another engineering job. I spent 3 years trying. I've since quit the engineering profession. I have made more as a computer tech than I did as an engineer. I've got a neighbor who has a BS in chemical engineering, and his experience mirrors mine. He does not want his kids going into engineering. Even when I was working as an engineer, my coworkers would often gather and read the salary surveys and laugh at them.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Vancorps ( 746090 )

            You're definitely right here which is why I took every opportunity I could to make those connections and guess what? Now I'm making what the surveys say I should be making. It was definitely frustrating for the longest time because I never accepted help from people always preferring to do it myself. Then somewhere along the line a pretty lady came into my life and made me realize that asking for or accepting help doesn't make you weak and it often makes the other person feel good. This is like going to the

    • by jorghis ( 1000092 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:46PM (#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.

      • by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:56PM (#28783691) Homepage

        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 (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ILuvRamen ( 1026668 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @01:08PM (#28783895)
        Hold on a second there. I'm an independent repairer (non-shady one) and my main problem with all the "official" ones like Geek Squad is they're a little reinstall happy. Unless system files are missing or damaged, I never reinstall windows. It's not that hard to automatically then manually remove any trace of incompatible software or any malware. Their big thing is that it'd take 4 hours of labor to fix the problem or 3 to reinstall windows and back up all their data first. I charge so little for labor that it doesn't really matter and then they get to keep all their software instead of spending a week reinstalling everything, half of which they lost the discs for.
        Oh and you're not a very good repairer if you're just guessing at parts. If you can't tell the difference between a broken power supply, motherboard, or ram then you don't know what you're doing.
        • Re:Halfway Competent (Score:5, Informative)

          by Satanboy ( 253169 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @01:17PM (#28784045)

          [blockquote]Oh and you're not a very good repairer if you're just guessing at parts. If you can't tell the difference between a broken power supply, motherboard, or ram then you don't know what you're doing[/blockquote]

          I don't know, there are funky things that can happen.

          For instance, I had a machine that would randomly reboot, windows error messaging pointed to a chipset failure. So, I swapped ram, but the machine kept rebooting, so I swapped processor. This didn't fix the issue so i tried a new motherboard, the pc still kept rebooting. I decided to go ahead and pull the mobo from the chasis and run it on a cardboard box before replacing any more parts. I turned the mobo on with a screw driver. The computer never rebooted and ran flawlessly. I put it back in the case and it began rebooting again. I disconnected the power switch wire. It didn't exhibit this problem. I found out after all that work, it was a faulty power switch!

          Sometimes you just can't tell by the symptoms what the problem is, and even following reasonable troubleshooting steps you sometimes just waste time.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by ILuvRamen ( 1026668 )
            If it reboots non-instantly and not with a blue screen, just exactly the same way that it would if you pressed the power button, and it wasn't a virus, I would have narrows it down to the power switch awfully quickly.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        You could apply the same logic to medical conditions, and in fact that's what a lot of NHS doctors do:

        1. Look at symptoms
        2. Try most likely treatment
        3. If not cured, repeat with progressively less likely treatments
        3. Cured!

        Where I work, the way we justify spending time diagnosing a fault and fixing it without a wipe+reinstall is that it's less trouble for the customer. Particularly for business customers it's important to be able to get up and running, with all their software/email/settings/etc intact ASAP.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Knara ( 9377 )

      We exist, we're just in corporate settings where we make a lot more money.

      It's actually rather amazing how little you have to do in order to be regarded as the "best of the best" in desktop support in large corporate environments (because most good engineers move on very quickly to other job descriptions).

      The main issue being that you should be able to recover a machine to normal operations without reinstalling or wiping the machine 90%+ of the time (which is fairly easy to do if you know what you're doin

  • !surprising (Score:2, Insightful)

    by evil_aar0n ( 1001515 )

    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 (Score:4, Interesting)

      by nahdude812 ( 88157 ) * on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:40PM (#28783457) Homepage

      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).

      • by CompMD ( 522020 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @01:58PM (#28784745)

        "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."

        Those Dell laptops, always speeding, weaving through traffic, flipping you the bird if you're going too slow. Its only a matter of time before they get into an accident. The shame little Latitude or Inspiron must feel when their parents Optiplex and Precision watch the video of their children failing a roadside field sobriety test.

  • Surprising? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Renraku ( 518261 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:22PM (#28783189) Homepage

    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.

    • "$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.

      • by The Archon V2.0 ( 782634 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @02:06PM (#28784881)

        "$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.

        Let's see what tips I've got, being a tech in a computer store....

        1) $10 every four or five months,
        2) $20 maybe once a year,
        3) repeated offers to get in on a pyramid scheme,
        4) an offer to witness me convert religions and, when I declined, a promise that the offerer would pray that I would see the light, as I might die tomorrow and be cast into the firey pit with all the other unsaved,
        5) an offer to go to a certain motel at a certain time to meet some people for a reason the person wasn't willing to entirely clarify beyond "It's easy money!",
        6) a suggestion that the customer's Eastern European niece was a real nice girl and I should e-mail her, maybe start a relationship,
        7) and a dude who said I could burn a copy of his 'barely legal cheerleaders being spanked' porn collection.

    • Re:Surprising? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by malloc ( 30902 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:39PM (#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? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Renraku ( 518261 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:42PM (#28783485) Homepage

        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: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by lymond01 ( 314120 )

          I completely disagree. Morals and ethics has no correlation with wages. We've got people making $400K+ per year bilking the university for money, making illegal hires, and making front page news about it. You might find a disgruntled employee somewhere who is lower paid but it isn't the pay, it's the perceived treatment, with an emphasis on perceived. You can teach morals and ethics but like any education it's up to the student to want to follow through with what they have learned.

        • This is true (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @01:24PM (#28784181)

          It is something Costco has discovered: They have less shrinkage (theft) than normal. Why? They pay their employees well and have good benefits. Thus while it doesn't mean nobody ever steals from them, it means it happens less than at similar stores. The reason is threefold:

          1) People like and care about their job more because it pays well, and thus don't want to do things that might mess it up. So even if they are somewhat morally dubious, they may elect not to risk their job.

          2) Their employees have more money and thus less incentive to steal. When you are flat broke, theft can seem like a good option. When you can afford what you want, it isn't as attractive.

          3) They have more goodwill towards their employer. They feel like their employer cares about them so they care about their employer. Most people have a much easier time screwing someone over if they don't know them or dislike them.

          It really DOES seem to work. Also, it tends to reduce turnover. With minimum wage, you have an extremely high turnover rate. People come and go all the time. As you increase pay, you increase the amount of time people will stay with you. The reason this matters to an employer is that it costs money to train new employees. Even on menial jobs, you don't walk in and have 100% efficiency on day one. This applies even if you've done similar work before. Every setup is different, it takes time to train up people.

          Again something Costco has discovered. The interesting thing is that the two factors (lower theft and turnover) seem to add up for them and largely offset the higher costs for employees. Yes, they pay out more, but it reduces other costs and thus doesn't end up hitting the bottom line as much as you might first expect.

      • Re:Surprising? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by techess ( 1322623 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @01:16PM (#28784037)

        I think you have an excellent point. I've been involved with the hiring process of the IT people I work with (an even our current IT manager). I tend to choose those that seem honest in the interview. The HR/non-techs tend to be impressed by the "big talkers". When we talk after the people I rate the highest they usually rate the lowest and vice versa.

        We do a Q/A interview first and then we do a hands on interview where we make them show that they can do all the stuff they listed in their resume or said they could do in the Q/A portion. It is amazing the amount of lies people tell in an interview (and not just exaggeration, but blatant lies about their skills). People who are honest in their interview have, in our experience, been honest employees.

        Most people can be taught to do low end "geek squad" style tech support, but you can't teach someone to be honest. It isn't based on pay either. Someone who will cheat and steal in a $7/hr job will do the same if they are making $30.

    • Re:Surprising? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:49PM (#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.

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

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

  • by pjt33 ( 739471 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:25PM (#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?

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

    • by Renraku ( 518261 )

      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.

    • by jorghis ( 1000092 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:36PM (#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: (Score:3, Funny)

        by JCSoRocks ( 1142053 )
        I'm not going to say these people are intelligent but what happens when the next shop cracks this thing open and sees solder on there? At that point it seems pretty obvious that the conversation will go something like -

        them: Oy! wtf!? Why have you been doing your own soldering work on your laptop?
        customer: Why have I been doing what? huh?
        them: Soldering! This - right here - why would you do that to your own machine?
        customer: .... Those dirty, rat $&@*!(
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mcgrew ( 92797 )

      News flash: unscrupulous employers hire unscrupulous people.

  • PC Repair Scams (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Reason58 ( 775044 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:26PM (#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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by inviolet ( 797804 ) <> on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:36PM (#28783389) Journal

      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: (Score:3, Informative)

        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 t
      • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @01:24PM (#28784171) Homepage Journal

        Back in the days when all computers were mainframes, a company's computer stopped working, so they hired a consultant to fix it. The consultant walked in, took out a small hammer and tapped the computer, which started working. He billed the company $1000.

        The CEO was outraged, and demanded that a detailed bill be sent. The bill came back:

        Tapping computer with small hammer - $1
        Knowing where to tap - $999

      • Re:PC Repair Scams (Score:4, Informative)

        by Barny ( 103770 ) <> on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @07:32PM (#28789597) Journal

        Ahh the crux of the matter :) (aside from the WGA jibe)

        The point is that a tech had to allocate desk time (at least where I work, we charge for desk time, not the techs time, since the tech will be back and fourth between about 4 computers constantly) to fixing this, not to mention finding a deliberately sabotaged component (and sabotaged in a way that is NOT A COMMON FAULT) then testing to see if windows was harmed by the faulty part (usually if a machine runs for a while with memory errors it will corrupt at least a handful of windows files if you are lucky, the registry if your not).

        How this diagnosis would go at my pc shop...

        1, try booting
        2, try booting linux live CD
        3, open case, find loose ram
        4, try booting windows again
        5, boot from a windows CD and do at least 3 chkdsk (at least get 2 clean scans)
        6, run prime95 on it overnight to make sure its all happy
        6.5 if at any time a prime95 pass fails or windows doesn't boot, load windows CD and do windows repair for XP or SFC for Vista, if it still fails, load linux CD and dupe data to NAS in preparation for reinstall (we do this regardless of if the customer asks us to, the amount of times we get asked after a "wipe-reinstall" if their email is still there...)
        7, charge customer $99AU for the fault.

    • Re:PC Repair Scams (Score:5, Insightful)

      by WiiVault ( 1039946 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:43PM (#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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:44PM (#28783529) Journal

      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 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Seakip18 ( 1106315 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @01:07PM (#28783883) Journal

        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.

        This is a good one.

        Consider a $47 memory pack from Newegg. You charge 30% and either pull it from stock you've had to make a bet on not going obsolete and having to sell at a loss or pay for shipping(you could pass the buck here...)& wait for the part. Even then you're only charging ~$14 to customer for you to choose, buy and install the RAM, in which case the customer saves $33 over having you install THEIR ram.

        What you get back is the customer is more willing to come to you for minor upgrades rather than shrug and do it themselves. After all, you'll do it cheaper and still carry the liability if you burn out a mobo, get an incompatible part, etc..

        I'd hardly consider that ripping someone off.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)


          I don't compete with low price mail order online shops. They are not my competitors. I sell service, not products. The Products I sell are gravy.

  • Other companies (Score:4, Informative)

    by Demonantis ( 1340557 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:27PM (#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.
  • by GPLDAN ( 732269 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:31PM (#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.
    • by guruevi ( 827432 )

      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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by langelgjm ( 860756 )
      At least Molex is on the way out since SATA. I can't tell you how many knuckles I've cut up trying to get out stubborn Molex connectors.
  • Well.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by SGDarkKnight ( 253157 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:32PM (#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.

  • 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 (Score:5, Informative)

      by goobermaster ( 1263770 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:35PM (#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 (Score:5, Informative)

      by HBI ( 604924 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:38PM (#28783415) Journal


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

      This is only a trivial example.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Ah yes. That feature.

        A friend (an Opera fan) of mine found that some time ago, and promptly informed me (died of laughter) that because anyone can sit down and get his passwords, Firefox was of questionable quality ('it sucks').

        I then pointed out the whole Edit --> Preferences (for windows, Tools --> Options) --> Security --> "Use a master password" checkbox. When using this, the passwords it stores are properly encrypted and cannot be used by anything without providing a password you select. No

    • Re:Steal passwords (Score:5, Informative)

      by jorghis ( 1000092 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:40PM (#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....."

  • by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:34PM (#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?

    • by Renraku ( 518261 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:48PM (#28783581) Homepage

      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.

  • 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.

  • 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...)

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:42PM (#28783475) Journal

    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)

  • PC Work (Score:3, Funny)

    by Sporkinum ( 655143 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:44PM (#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 just in UK. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wvmarle ( 1070040 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:48PM (#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.

  • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @01:04PM (#28783825) Homepage
    We needed a memory upgrade from 512M to 2G to run Adobe Illustrator. So I call the computer market to send over a guy to do the job. Screw it, I'm not touching computer parts if I can help it. The computer guy comes over, replaces the motherboard/CPU and puts new RAM in. I see him put only 1 stick in, which concerns me. Computer boots up fine, he wants to leave. I say, hold on there Tex, let's make sure this works. I check the POST screen and it reports 1G memory. I tell this to the guy in Chinese. "Hey, you forgot to bring one of the RAM sticks, there's only 1G in here." He says, (jedi hand wave) no, there is 2G RAM in the machine. I say, no look here, it's reporting only 1G, you have to go back and get the other stick of RAM. He says, (jedi hand wave) no, the video card is taking up the extra space. At this point I get angry and show him where the BIOS reports 128M for the video card. He says he'll come back tomorrow with the other stick.

    I wonder how many times he got away with this, taking the extra cash for himself. I reported the scam to his boss, but the boss wasn't very excited about it. He was probably in on the scam, too. Heck, it was probably his idea. Most office customers wouldn't know 2G RAM from a RAID array. Just another example of the sort of automatic fraud from vendors that you have to constantly be aware of in China (and elsewhere).

  • by ( 245670 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @01:10PM (#28783939)

    Mod me "troll" if you want but there is nothing magical about computers. If someone feels it's not worth their time and effort to learn how computers work, that's their prerogative. But, when they make the choice to remain ignorant, they need to man up and accept that this is going to cost them. They will be at the complete mercy of people who made the effort to understand how these devices work.

    Heck, I can tear down an engine and rebuild it if I want but I choose to pay other people to do that kind of work for me. The fact that I understand how engines work gives me the ability to screen mechanics and find one who won't rip me off. One who will just do the work that needs to be done and charge for the true value of that work.

    I honestly can't comprehend people who don't take the time to learn how things work. These days, most white collar jobs require extensive use of computers. People rely on these devices to feed their families and put a roof over their heads yet they make no effort to understand how they work. It's ... I have no words. I just don't understand how people can be content to live in a fog of ignorance.

  • Fix in minutes? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wjousts ( 1529427 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @01:17PM (#28784041)

    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.'

    This isn't as bad as some of these "exposes" they run on PC repair shops, but I would dispute it should take minutes to fix. For a start, you need to open the case first, which you're probably not going to do until you've tried to see if you can solve the problem without opening the case (maybe it's a BIOS or OS problem). It's not like checking the ram is seated properly is the first thing you'd check and it's not like the BIOS will come up with a "RAMs not seated properly" message.

    I remember another similar set up a while back where they'd plugged the IDE cable in backwards. Again, if somebody brings in a computer that has stopped working, the first thing you think of is not going to be that the IDE cable has magically turned itself backwards again.

    Having said all that, let me make it clear that these people (the PC repair people) are still scumbags. I had a computer from BestBuy that was still under warranty that had damage to the power supply and motherboard (you could see the burn marks on the connectors). BestBuy's Geek Squad tried to tell me that I had a virus and need to buy their anti-virus.

  • Trust (Score:3, Insightful)

    by yoshi_mon ( 172895 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @01:20PM (#28784107)

    I was talking to a friend of mine who, like myself, does local PC contract work. He charges a bit more than me and in discussing that one day he started talking about the various reasons he felt his costs were fair. Partly it is a regional difference as well as he has been doing it longer. But the big thing that I felt, knowing his clients as he often will consult with me on things, was trust.

    Given that I'm sure that there are others in his area that could do his work for a lower fee his clients are very loyal. Rather thou the trust that they have in him is worth the extra money.

    I even used a car analogy. Saying that he was like a trusted mechanic. Since most people don't know much about computers when something is wrong with them, like a car for someone who is not a mechanic, as the repairman you can lie with near impunity as to what is wrong. Or just describe the problem as it really is in such overwhelming technical detail that it sounds much worse than it really is.

    I don't think any of us who have been around are very surprised that this goes on. From the moment PCs when mainstream I've seen sleazy repair shop after sleazy repair shop doing the same kinds of things. And it makes it all the easier for me to retain customers given that by doing honest work I build up a trust with them.

  • In their defense... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by scorp1us ( 235526 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @01:51PM (#28784637) Journal
    While not excusing the criminal behavior, I love it when people create a problem that just doesn't ever happen in the real world then point to the techs for being dumb. What I mean is, I've seen memory modules go bad, but I've NEVER seen memory modules work themselves out of a slot. They click in there and stay. I've seen monitor power cords work themselves out, memory chips go bad, but never a memory module. Another repair tech expose took an old PATA ribbon cable and cut some wires. That wasn't a real test either. PATA cables are not a wear item. If they do go bad, it is a result of recent handling and is detected immediately. While you know the problem, the techs have the opposite problem - their experience works against them. So when simulating an error, please make it plausible.
  • by Runefox ( 905204 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @01:53PM (#28784667) Homepage

    The CBC did a documentary called "Getting Gouged by Geeks" of precisely the same thing, with almost precisely the same fault - Instead of loosening the chip, the module itself was blown in such a way that the computer didn't power on. Unfortunately, CBC had high standards - even one guy who had figured it out, and honestly fixed it, was considered to be "gouging" because he only had a larger module than what needed replacing - Let's not even mention that they expected him to do a house call for free and give them a memory module for the going price online. There were plenty of examples of others who weren't so legit, though.

    You can see it here []. Interestingly, Slashdot [] ran a story on it.

  • Pr0n WAS my pay! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by boristdog ( 133725 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @03:49PM (#28786473)

    Co-workers used to always bring in their home computers for me to fix (for free), because as the database and web guy, I "knew" computers.

    So I always did searches for *.jpg on their machines. It's interesting to see the pr0n preferences of your co-workers. Some of the people you would least suspect have some of the most extensive and unusual pr0n collections.

    Plus I managed to snag some good co-worker, girlfriend & wife porn as well. It's astounding how clueless people are about the visibility of "secret" files on their computers.

Matter cannot be created or destroyed, nor can it be returned without a receipt.