Ian, Tony and I run the monthly “How Do I…?” Workshops and while we’ve been able to solve most problems and issues so far, we recently had to assist one of our members out of a real pickle. This is a story we want to share and one which I urge everyone to read to make sure you don’t fall for the same scam. To protect the anonymity of our member, I’ll call her Jill. Why protect Jill?….well this is all a little embarrassing but don’t kid yourself, you could fall for this too – plenty of other people have! Here’s Jill’s story…..
Jill recently changed over to Broadband taking advantage of an excellent deal being offered by one of the big NZ suppliers. Things didn’t go so well after the changeover and Jill had several conversations with the supplier trying to get the broadband working properly. They were very helpful and eventually got things sorted for her. So far so good!
But shortly after her final call with her broadband supplier, Jill received a phone call from a gentleman who told her that her PC had performance problems and that his organisation could help. To add credibility to his claims he guided Jill to the System Log on her PC and highlighted the “errors” she was getting. There seemed to be quite a few errors and naturally the caller made a big thing about their impact on her PC’s performance. He then convinced Jill that he and his organisation could resolve all her “problems”, improve her overall PC performance and over the next 12 months keep her PC up-to-date and running smoothly. Yes siree, he was a smooth-talker.
It’s easy to be clever in hindsight and Jill now realises that the name of the company “Tech Budda” should have set off alarm bells but as she explained to us, she doesn’t know much about computers and she initially thought this was a followup call from her Broadband Supplier. The “errors” he showed her looked very real (and they are…sort of) and the man on the phone was very very convincing and persuasive. He built up a false trust in Jill’s mind and eventually convinced her to sign up to a 12 month “maintenance” contract costing over $200.
Once he had Jill signed up the friendly man from Tech Budda then talked Jill through the process of letting him log-on remotely to her PC. He then spent a whopping 9 hours “tuning” her PC. Throughout this time Jill could see what he was doing but of course she had little or no comprehension of what he was actually up to.
We’ve looked over the contract which Jill printed off and to be honest it looks quite legitimate. It talks about regular maintenance, keeping the PC up-to-date and ensuring the anti-virus and other software is current. I’ve seen a lot of IT contracts in my time and this one looks fine to my non-legal eye. The only thing I can see wrong is that it was agreed to under duress and justified using tenuous evidence (the System Log is always full of errors!). Jill was duped out of $200 that is for sure but I doubt whether she has any comeback. Her PC seemed to run a “little faster” after the 9hr session but nothing else appeared to have changed. It sure doesn’t normally take me 9hrs to tune a PC!
On the surface, we might have let this slide and put the whole episode down to experience….. albeit a $200 experience with little obvious reward. Unfortunately, this isn’t the end of the story….
About 3 weeks after the initial engagement, Jill received an invoice by email charging her a further $30 for “anti-virus software” which she never ordered and certainly shouldn’t have to pay for – there is plenty of good AV software available for free and you should never pay for it – not even from the “known brands”! To make matters worse, Tech Budda had already taken the money from Jill’s Credit Card using the original authorisation. Our reaction was swift and our directions to Jill very very clear.
- Go straight to your bank and tell them what’s happened.
- Get the second charge reversed immediately and try to get the first one reversed too
- Change all your Internet banking passwords immediately
- And finally, get your PC rebuilt from the ground up.
At this point we were convinced that the dubious contract had just turned into a scam and that our “friends” at Tech Budda would be back for more of Jill’s money unless we could stop them in their tracks. We were very worried that they may have stolen passwords off Jill’s PC or worse, planted software to capture and continue to steal passwords and other personal information. No-one other than people you completely trust should be given access to your PC….ever!
Jill’s PC has now been rebuilt using the original software DVDs. She’s changed all her passwords and is watching her monthly credit card statement very carefully. Her bank has been very helpful and never once criticised her actions. They realise how easy it was to fall for this scam and have done everything they could to help her get out of this pickle. Of course Jill feels a little silly about what happened but she’s much wiser now.
- Jill never accepts unsolicited telephone calls – she simply says she’s not interested and politely hangs up.
- Jill knows that if she has problems with her PC she can come to the “How Do I…?” Workshop at SeniorNet for help and guidance (which she did!).
- Jill is planning to attend some courses at SeniorNet to improve her knowledge about her PC so people like the man from Tech Budda can’t so easily trick her with all their techie-talk.
Jill is a much wiser person for this experience and we hope that by sharing what happened, you will be too.