Computer Repair, Insurance and Honesty

Last year, a controversial study suggested that computer repair shops scam people that have insurance.  If you mention you have insurance, on average, you’ll get charged more for the repair.  Guess what…so do we.  Our rationale is different though.

Computer on Fire

The computer repair shops in the study clearly took advantage of customers.  They billed for work and repairs there weren’t done.  That’s wrong.  The theory from the study was the shops weren’t hurting the customers because the customers weren’t paying, insurance was.  The big, bad insurance company was getting hurt.  The shops didn’t think this through though. Insurance scams raise rates and hurt everyone.

So why do we charge clients with insurance more on average?  It isn’t about scamming, but it’s about making a client whole.  The goal of insurance is to return everything to where it was, as if it didn’t happen.  That’s a very high standard.  We don’t want clients to live with a problem.

Since we do a ton of on-site computer repairs in Lawrence, Topeka and Kansas City, I’m in my car often.  Accidents are inevitable.  My car was completely totaled during one service call, but other times it’s just scratches and dents.  The insurance company writes me a check for the estimated damage. It’s my choice to repair it or not.

With clients we take the same approach, we don’t want clients to live with a problem.  Take, for example, a lightning strike.  That often damage the networking port inside the computer.  If the client is insured, we recommend replacing the internal system board.  That’s often worth more than the computer.  That’s what’s wrong though and insurance covers what’s wrong.

Computer on Fire 1

If for some reason the client doesn’t have insurance for this (or the deductible is too high), we suggest creating a wireless network.   Our goal isn’t to return the computer to pre-lightning condition; our goal is to get the client up and running.  Adding an external wireless adapter fixes the problem, but doesn’t fix the computer.

We take the same approach with data recovery.  If a client has a failed hard drive, we have software and procedures to recovery the data.  We don’t have the tools you see on TV shows like CSI or the movies.  We don’t have a special clean room with people in bunny suits.  That’s stuff professional companies like DriveSavers use.  They can completely rebuild a hard drive from scratch.

If a computer’s insured, we refer the client to DriveSavers and decline the recovery work.  Although we might be able to get the data back, DriveSavers has the best chance for success.  The goal is the return the computer to pre-damaged state, and DriveSavers will do a better job then we do.  Yes, we’re suggesting something that costs more because of insurance.  So be it!  I want the client’s problem resolved in the best way possible.

Without insurance, it’s a decision for the client to determine how much a repair is worth rather than replacement or workarounds.  For my car, I’m more likely to accept a few dents or some duct tape instead of fixing something. If it’s covered by insurance though, I expect them to pay to get my car fixed.

Our goal is always to do what’s best for the client and advocate for them.  We do insurance evaluations all the time.  It could be after a computer’s dropped, water spilled on it, or hit by lightning.  We’ve got a great reputation with adjusters in town for this and never had a claim denied.  You’d actually be surprised how often problems are covered by homeowners, renters, or business insurance.

Photo by cibomahto

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Local Tech Support Scam Victim On the Hook for $10,000

Until we got the third call in one week for this scam, I couldn’t believe it was true.  Sadly one client was taken for almost $10,000.  She needs to take out a loan so that she can pay her living expenses.  How this all came about is interesting, but more important,  anyone who’s been a previous victim of a tech support scam could be scammed again.

Throwing Money Away

This scam actually started months ago.  It starts with someone who has been taken in by a previous tech support scam.  I’ve written about it before, but in a nutshell a scammer convinces you to pay to fix a fake problem on your computer.  It’s usually a yearly cost of anywhere between $250 and $800.  They’ll keep asking for more money until you stop.

Re Victimizing the Victim

The new wrinkle is the scammers call the client back and apologize.  Yup.  They own up to it being a scam and offer a refund.  Cool!  At this point the victim is caught off guard.  Then instead of just refunding the money on the victim’s credit card, the scammer needs bank information.  They’ll offer to remotely connect to the computer to help out.  That’s not the scam though.  The goal is to obtain banking information to transfer the money in.  Sounds good so far right?

Here’s the scam:  they claim to have transferred too much.  Maybe it was an error, maybe it was the exchange rate, but they get the victim to believe they need to refund about $10,000.  If you refuse, they’ll call the police and try to freeze your account.  They’ll insist on this.  To fix the problem, they need gift cards.  This tactic is a variation of a fake check and advance fee scam.

How the Money Got Lost

In fact, the scammers never sent the money.  They won’t do anything to your bank account.  However, they’ve scared the victim at this point.  The victim is led to believe they’re stealing money from the kind scammers who tried to refund the money.  The scammers tell the victim to take out the $10,000 in cash from the bank.  Then they’re instructed to buy gift cards to places like Target or Wal-mart.  All the victim needs to do is read the numbers to the scammer over the phone and that will act as a refund.  Except of course for some reason the scammer will probably say the cards don’t work.  They’ll want more money.  The scam stops when the victim runs out of money.

Our most recent client was saved because her mobile phone ran out of power.  The scammers stayed on the phone with her the entire time, threatening to lock her account if she hung up.  So she went from the bank, then to Target, and then to Walmart all while the scammers were on the phone.

Financial Protection Policies Failed

Department stores and banks are instructed to ask people questions when making such a large withdrawal.  Our client wasn’t asked at the bank.  They just let her take out the $10,000.  She’s never made a cash withdrawal at the bank.  I’ve later found out the bank apologized for not following procedures. Although they won’t take responsibility, they’ll let her take out a loan to restore the money.  Translation:  they’ll make money off her loss instead of being responsible.  Sickening.

Target asked her why she wanted a $10,000 gift card.  Store policy says they can only create gift cards up to $3,000.  Target did ask, and she said they were for grandchildren.  The problem is sending gift cards to grandchildren is a type of scam department stores are warned against.  Here’s a great story about how Target followed policy and saved victims from the scam.  Two of our victims this week were stopped by Wal-Mart or Target from buying gift cards.  However, again one was not and is out the $10,000.

Unfortunately our client was not covered by insurance for the loss.  Some clients have been able to use their insurance as victims of tech support scams.  In all cases, the Lawrence Police department refused to take a report.  That directly contradicts statements made by the LPD in this article.  When I was a victim of credit card theft, they refused to take a report as well.  I was told that I couldn’t confirm the theft was local.

Here’s what everyone needs to know about this type of scam:

Computer owners

(whether someone calls you or you call them based on message on your computer or phone)

  1. Never allow someone to remote control your computer that you don’t know, regardless of the circumstance.  The only exception is us of course, but we will never initiate a call to you and always give you the option for an on-site computer repair.    If you’re unsure, check with us.
  1. Never give out passwords or other identifying information to people you don’t know.   If you’re unsure, check with us. This includes stuff like your birthday, mother’s maiden name, and social security number.
  1. Nothing is urgent.  Your computer won’t self-destruct or lock if you fail to take action immediately.  Give us a call first.

Banks and Department Store Employees

Please follow your policies.  Realize these scams happen right here in #LFK.  Ask people point blank “Are you being told to send this money by a company?”  Train yourself and your staff on common scams.

Scammers

Get a real job.  Use your skills to help people instead of steal from people.

As a reminder, please gives us a call if you’re unsure about a message on your computer.  We’ll help you at no charge over the phone.  Whatever you do, don’t allow someone to control your computer and do stuff to it unless you’ve properly vetted them.

 

Photo by Tax Credits

Here’s how to Prepare for a Computer Repair Appointment

I’ll often read medical blogs because what we do in computer repair isn’t that much different than patient care.  I came across this great article about preparing for a medical appointment.  That article got me thinking about how to prepare for a computer repair appointment on-site or at our office in Lawrence or Kansas City.

Doctors Office Waiting

You’re Not a Computer Person (But Don’t Need to Be)

One of the first statements we get during a client intake is “I don’t know, I’m not a computer person.”  Of course you’re not, that’s why you’re calling us!

Although the business name is DoctorDave Computer Repair, I didn’t go to medical school (I went to law school).  That doesn’t mean I can’t go to the doctor.  A good doctor does a careful intake and listens to symptoms.  I don’t tell the doctor I have otitis media, I say my ear hurts.  I can’t however go to the doctor and say “I’m sick” and leave it there.  They’re stuck starting with “Does your left toe hurt” and move up to the top of your head.  Obviously that doesn’t happen in real life.  They’ll ask probing questions like “Are you in pain?” and “Where does it hurt?”

Tell Us What It’s Doing (Or Not Doing)

Nothing technical.  It’s the computer equivalent of “Where does it hurt?”  We need to know your symptoms.  Instead of saying “I have a virus,” tell us about the strange message you get everytime you turn on your computer.

Take Detailed Notes

Doctors of all kinds like symptom tracking.  We even have a symptom tracking worksheet we developed from a client who kept a food diary.  Things that seem unimportant sometimes are vital.  Anyone who’s watched House knows that.  The more details we have, the better diagnosis we can make.

Have a Chief Complaint

Doctors use that term for the answer to the question “What brings you in today?”  If you say “everything”, you’ll never get what you want.  Go in with one key issue you’re facing and then any other issues rank ordered.  When I go to my medical doctor, I’m always complaining about my shoulder, even if I’m just in for an ear infection.  Correction.  I don’t know if I have an ear infection, I just have pain in my ear.  My shoulder’s unrelated, but it’s a nagging pain. Too often I leave the MD’s office with my complaints unresolved.  That’s because I’m not organized and threw too much at her at once.

Use An App To Keep Track (Even if it’s email)

We tend to have our phones with us at all time.  When a problem develops on your computer, record it on your phone.  We’ve got a DoctorDave App to make it easy to do this on an iPhone.  If you have an Android phone or just don’t want to download our app (why not?), use your camera and your email.

True story.  I was having problems with my stomach and there is an app that will track and rate your poop.  Seriously!  For computer problems, you don’t need anything that fancy.  Just take a picture and send us an email.  No poop emails please.

Don’t Let Problems Linger

If you wait until your yearly check and dump all the problems on your physician, he might get a little overwhelmed.  Don’t let small problems become big ones.  Train yourself on self-examination techniques so you’ll see the first sign of trouble.

With the computer, a small virus becomes a big one over time.  A hard drive that clicks or glitches once eventually fails to boot and you lose your data.

Photo by justgrimes

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Best. Upgrade. Ever – Solid State Drives (SSDs)

Laptop hard drives, on average, last about three years.  We recommend replacement of computers after three years.  However, if you want to keep your laptop, we highly recommend Solid State Drives (SSDs).

faster than light..

This is the same technology in your smartphone or tablet that lets it boot up and open applications quickly.  All Apple laptops now come with SSDs as do many Windows laptops.  If we’re going to repair your computer, or you just need a speed boost, an SSD is the way to go.

SSDs give you more of a performance boost than a memory upgrade or any other single procedure we can do during a tune up.  The price is reasonable:  right around $50-$100 for the parts.  Speed increase can be up to 10-fold.  That’s a good return on investment.  Even if your hard drive hasn’t failed, putting in an SSD is like a fountain of youth for your desktop or laptop.
Photo by vishwaant

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Is the Paperless Office Still a Thing?

Do you remember when computers promised to let us go paperless?  I wrote an article for groovyPost how I hate paperless statements from companies.  However for your home or small business, this article has some good steps.  Less paper is better for the environment and makes it easier to find stuff.

Postmaster General James A. Farley During National Air Mail Week 1938

I think the key point is to use your phone more often.  We don’t all have a digital scanner at home, but I bet we all have a phone.  Instead of saving receipts, just take pictures of them.

One thing they didn’t mention is business cards.  I avoid taking business cards.  When someone hands one to me, I take a picture and hand it back.  Better for the environment and easier to find a computer picture than a piece of paper.

Read both articles mentioned to reduce your clutter and find stuff easier.

Photo by Smithsonian Institution

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Remote Working/Telecommunity Bad for Your Health?

Many of our clients work from home.  We’re their local IT, doing the computer repair and support their corporate office might do.  The flexibility is great, but not everyone likes it.

Telecommute.
When I chat with clients I hear some of the same complaints in this article. One person put it best to me:

“It’s like being in jail, but worse.  In jail at least I get yard time.  When I work from home, I wake up and then sit at the computer.  Eight hours later I’m done, make dinner, watch TV etc.  Then I go to sleep and start the same process again.  I never see another person and I rarely leave the house.  For all I know, the outside world is just an illusion!”

His case was a little bit of an exaggeration, but I get the idea.  For me, I love coffee shops and coworking.  A coffee shop you get some social interactions as well as some caffeine and sweets, which always helps.  You can also put on headphones and be left alone.  You can find me at almost any coffee shop in Lawrence, Topeka or KC.  If they have wifi and good coffee, I’m there.

Coworking spaces are similar.  You get the same social interactions, but you can also isolate yourself a bit more.  They tend to be quieter than coffee shops.  That’s good for some people, but I need background noise while I work.  That’s when it’s time for headphones.  At a coworking space you get the bonus of networking with other remote workers like yourself.

Which is better, coworking or coffee?  Both!  I recommend both depending on your workflow and personality.  Some weeks I feel more like working while others I feel more like coffee shop hopping.  If the weather’s good though, expect me on a patio somewhere.

Regardless of where you go, be sure to get out of the house!  You could always bring your computer to our office for a free diagnostic appointment.  We have wifi and coffee too.

Photo by _e.t

Just Say No to KRACK

You’ve probably heard about this new wireless hack called KRACK.  Just what we need after all the frustrations with Equifax! Don’t panic, just be on alert.

Security Stock 11359

Our trusted friends at Malwarebytes did an excellent overview of the likely risks to the average users.  In a nutshell, when a wireless network asks for a password to connect, you assume it’s secure.  And when I mean secure, I mean virtually impenetrable.  Think deadlock along with a chain for good measure.  There’s no way someone’s going to get into your network without lots of work.

With KRACK, your wireless password is more like your standard door lock. Someone with a little skill and the right tools can open the door.

For a home user that means you need to be a little more on alert.  For someone to KRACK your wireless network, they’ll need to be within range.  The odds are you’d see someone in your driveway hacking into your network.  If you live in an apartment or otherwise close to others, they could try to hack in without your knowledge.  The odds of that happening are pretty darn low.  Brute force attacks have always been there.  Just like a door, given enough time, you’ll eventually get in.

Even if they get into your network, they’ll need to keep connected to see anything “juicy.”  Most stuff these days is encrypted along with having a password.  That’s like the safe in your house. The burglar can break into your home but then they need to break into the safe.  So much work!

Here’s what you need to do, which we suggest regardless of KRACK:

  • Keep your computer up to date with security patches.
  • Make sure your anti-virus is up to date and working.  We recommend Malwarebytes.
  • Use unique passwords everywhere.  Don’t reuse the same password on multiple sites.
  • Update your router with security updates and replace it when you can’t get updates.

The tricky part is when you’re in public. Even before KRACK, you needed to be careful.  Even if the password on the network is secure, you never know who is looking over your shoulder or recording you with their mobile phone.  When I’m at a coffee shop, I pretend that anything on my computer or mobile device is showing on every TV in the world.

These tips are what we advise all clients.  Call/Text/Email us or send us a message from the DoctorDave app if you have any questions or need help to protect your stuff.

Photo by Hivint

Did Microsoft Upgrade You Without Your Consent?

We advised clients not to upgrade to Windows 10.  Some clients listened, but their computers didn’t.  Microsoft made it confusing and client computers upgraded to Windows 10 accidentally.  If this happened to you, money might be coming back to you.

windows 10 ati

From what I’ve seen, this lawsuit has the best chance of being turned into a class action lawsuit. I hope one of these makes it through.  We know our computer repair clients in Lawrence, Topeka and Kansas City all had problems after unexpected upgrades.

We’ll keep you up-to-date if and when you have an opportunity to get money back.  We always let our clients know of potential money, refunds, and recalls through our newsletter.

Photo by osde8info

Online Security Systems and Your Home Or Business

With the expansion of the “Internet of Things” aka IoT, we’re getting lots of requests for security systems from clients.  The price has come way down and we recommend them to everyone.

Security Camera

This article has a good explanation of why it’s important for your business to have a security system, but this applies to many residential clients.

One thing the article mentions is you might get a reduction in your insurance if you get one of these camera systems.  Considering many are less than $100, that’s a very quick return on investment.

Some of the systems we’ve set up for clients are

  • Canary and other internet camera by companies like TP-Link
  • Intelligent assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home
  • Nest and Ecobee thermostats
  • Ring doorbell (very cool)
  • Swan security systems

If you set these up yourself, please keep up to date with security fixes and always change the default usernames and passwords.  These devices can get hacked really easily if you just “set it and forget it.”

Not sure if these systems are right for you?  Just give Dave a call for a free consultations.  We’ve set these up for clients all over Lawrence, Kansas City, and Topeka.

Photo by JeepersMedia

How to Block Scammers and Telemarketers on Your iPhone

Since Apple introduced iOS 10, they’ve included a way to identify and block annoying calls.  They haven’t advertised this feature well and that’s a shame.

Telemarketing Sales Rep Cubicle

If you’re using a newer AT&T iPhone, I recommend their Call Protect app. It blocks calls from even ringing your phone.  I’m using it on my iPhone SE and love it.

On other devices, this article explains some of the other free or paid call blocking services.  On my Android phone (yes I use both Android and iPhone), I’m using Hiya.  Hiya is what AT&T uses on their Call Protect app. Another article gives a slightly different review of these apps.

When a weird call comes in your Caller ID will either say it’s a suspect call or block it from even ringing.  If you get a bogus call, the app lets you mark it so others are warned.

If you need help setting these apps up, just let us know.  While we focus on computer repair, we also help people with mobile devices.

Photo by Listshack

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