Tech+ Mailbag: Can you re­ally trust that stranger you just gave ac­cess to your com­puter?

The Denver Post - - TECH KNOW - By Ta­mara Chuang

Ques­tion (Edited): Ihada rather unset­tling ex­pe­ri­ence with a sup­port com­pany called iYogi this week. I have been a cus­tomer with them for 5-years. …(A sup­port tech) ran the scan and I im­me­di­ately no­ticed a mes­sage, “In­fected by Real Time Spy Tool.” He brought up a page that had pass­words & the Task Man­ager page show­ing a bunch of pro­grams that were stopped. The McAfee virus pro­gram had just run a scan be­fore this tech con­nected to my PC. At this point he wanted me to con­nect to my bank & make sure my ac­count was OK. THAT’S WHEN I PULLED THE BAT­TERY ON MY PC & UN­PLUGGED IT.

…So this time I made a call to see if the tech worked for iYOGI. At that num­ber I was told that iYOGI was be­ing sued, may be headed to bank­ruptcy. This num­ber was a com­pany called Tech­club. Af­ter talk­ing with them I agreed to let them con­nect to my PC. They as­sured me they could fix the is­sues & clean up the PC. They started at $400 & I got them down to $199.99 for one year. They went thru a process very sim­i­lar to what was nor­mal with iYOGI. They di­rected me to a web page, www.fast­sup­port.com. … I got an email con­tract, re­ceipt for the pay­ment, etc. I feel bet­ter but still feel ner­vous that the whole thing is a scam. — Larry Li­tle, Grand Junc­tion

Tech+: I quickly Googled iYOGI and did not find any­thing that would make me trust the com­pany. It has a low score on Con­sumer Af­fairs, years of ques­tion­able sales tac­tics and just lots of un­pleas­ant stuff.

iYogi was a le­git­i­mate tech­sup­port com­pany based in In­dia at one point. But its ag­gres­sive sales tac­tics caused at least one state — Wash­ing­ton in 2015 — to sue the In­di­a­based com­pany.

It sounds like your re­cent ex­pe­ri­ence is not un­usual. Too bad you still de­cided to pay them $199.99.

I’m not go­ing to at­tempt to get that money back for you, but let me try to teach you and other Tech+ read­ers how to take bet­ter care of your­selves when faced with ques­tion­able tech-sup­port tech­ni­cians.

First, don’t hand over your credit card to an on­line stranger. I mean why? At least use com­mon sense. Any­time a strange pop-up or ad ask­ing for money “or else” shows up on your com­puter screen, get rid of it. How?

•Try the sim­ple way of clos­ing the page by click­ing the X

•If that doesn’t work, most in­ter­net browsers let you close a tab by hit­ting the keys Ctrl+W or Ctrl+F4

•In Google Chrome, close a page by se­lect­ing the three dots in the up­per right cor­ner, then “More Tools” and then “Task Man­ager.” Click the page you want to close.

•If noth­ing else works, shut down the in­ter­net browser with Mi­crosoft’s Task Man­ager: Press Ctrl+Alt+Delete, se­lect Win­dows Task Man­ager, go to “Pro­cesses” and high­light the ser­vice (ie: the in­ter­net browser) and hit “End Process.”

•And of course, if that doesn’t work, re­boot your PC.

If you think a com­pany can help you, find out all you can about the com­pany.

•Google it, for starters. But also search for it by typ­ing the com­pany name and “scam” or “re­views” or “law­suits.” To see current news, check Google News to find any re­cent re­ports. If more than a few sites are say­ing stay away, then stay away!

•Sites like HomeAd­vi­sor and Angie’s List (which will soon have the same owner) also have com­pany rat­ings AND ei­ther vet pro­fes­sion­als or of­fer some sort of guar­an­tee.

•Check out the com­pany’s site. Any­one can set up a pro­fes­sional look­ing site. But is there an “about us” page or a phys­i­cal ad­dress and phone num­ber? Use Google Street View to check out the ad­dress and see what’s at the ac­tual lo­ca­tion.

•Check the com­pany’s so­cial-net­work­ing pages, its blog or its re­cent-news page. If those haven’t been up­dated for years, stay away!

•If the com­pany is in the U.S., check with the Sec­re­tary of State’s of­fice for ac­tive busi­ness li­censes. In Colorado, the Sec­re­tary of State’s of­fice at dpo.st/bi­zlookup lets you peer at ac­tive busi­ness li­censes and get more de­tails about the com­pany.

Back in 2012 when you signed up with iYogi, news re­porters like Brian Krebs (a for­mer Wash­ing­ton Post re­porter who to­day is well re­garded for in­de­pen­dently cov­er­ing the dark-side cy­ber­se­cu­rity) wrote about iYogi. Krebs is the one who ex­posed iYogi for what it is, caus­ing an­tivirus com­pany Avast to drop iYogi as its tech sup­port. So, that in­for­ma­tion was al­ready float­ing around when you signed up.

But I can un­der­stand why some con­sumers may have kept the ser­vice, es­pe­cially since noted se­cu­rity firm Avast it­self rec­om­mended them. If you find your­self in that sce­nario, pester the se­cu­rity com­pany. They sold you on the third-party tech sup­port so they should be held re­spon­si­ble.

Also, don’t for­get the in-per­son tech help that is avail­able — also for a fee — by le­git­i­mate lo­cal com­pa­nies. Take that al­legedly bat­tered com­puter to your lo­cal Mi­crosoft Store, Ap­ple Store, Mi­cro Cen­ter, Best Buy, etc. At least you’ll know where to track them down if they do you wrong. Miss a week? Then sub­scribe to the new weekly Tech+ news­let­ter to get this week’s ques­tion plus more de­liv­ered right to your in­box. Sign up, see past Tech+ an­swers or ask your own tech ques­tion at dpo.st/mailbag. If you’re email­ing your ques­tion, please add “Mailbag” to the sub­ject line.

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