It finally happened! I finally got an unsolicited phone call from Online PC Care, a company which advertises – “instant support for all your computer related technical problems is just a click away” and “Online PC Care is the right place to resolve all your technical problems.”
I was well aware that many consider this type of online service (Online PC Care is just one of many companies saturating this market), to be an outright scam. Nevertheless, accepting the phone call and working through the sales presentation (which is effectively what it’s all about), was an opportunity to engage with a self described “technical expert”, that I couldn’t pass up.
Based on errors in Windows Event Viewer (which Charlie, calling from India, walked me through), the diagnosis indicated my PC was “pretty sick” – infested with malware, and pretty much ready for the scrap heap.
But luckily, there was a solution to this sad state of affairs – the purchase of a plan from Online PC Care – ranging in price from $120 (6 month Bronze Plan), to $200 for the (12 month Ultimate Plan). Or, a more specific Incident Based (Malware) Plan.
Click graphic to expand
Event Viewer system logs can look pretty scary to an average user despite the fact, that the event recorded is often insignificant. Here’s an example – the Event Viewer, in the following graphic, indicates that the Volume Shadow Copy Service on this machine failed to start on boot this morning.
This is not an unexpected event – given that I have disabled this service. If the Event Viewer didn’t show this error, then, I’d have something to worry about.
Charlie, who was extremely polite throughout the phone call, focused on a more specific error reported by the Event Viewer – a display driver crash (numerous crashes, in fact). Charlie, then laid out a convincing scenario in which he led me, step by step, into agreeing that the crashes were directly related to multiple malware infections.
Malware infections that could easily be removed – if I agreed to allow remote access to my machine, provided credit card details, and purchased either a Duration Based Plan, or an “Incident Based Plan at a cost of $35.
It took all the patience I could muster, as I was led through the process, not to inform Charlie that the crashes were caused by a hardware acceleration bug in Firefox 4. My tongue is still sore from the number of times I bit down.
Eventually, rather than have to listen to the sales presentation again and again (a continuing focus of the phone call), I let Charlie know that he was full of s*it, and referred him to this Blog. Strangely, Charlie took the subterfuge very well, and disconnected only after apologizing profusely.
It’s a fair assumption that the number of average computer users being taken advantage of by unscrupulous online organizations like Online PC Care, has to be considerable. The sales presentation is slick, the “proof” of computer malfunction is convincing since the “malfunctions” are readily apparent in the Event Viewer. What could be more convincing than a series of neatly packaged Warnings, and Errors?
To add credibility, many of these online technical problem solvers will misrepresent themselves as either being associated with Microsoft or, working directly for Microsoft.
In this particular case, Online PC Care did not misrepresent their position and readily supplied the name, web site address, and the location from which the phone call originated.
That’s little consolation though, since the overall presentation was structured in such a way, as to attempt to fraudulently convince me I had serious computer problems, including a non-existing malware infection.
It’s discouraging to think that legitimate online computer technicians, who provide a much needed and valuable service, could be easily tainted by the number of scam artists who are now active in this field.
As always, I ask that you as an experienced computer user, be kind to your friends, relatives, and associates, particularly those who are new computer users, and let them know that this type of scam has reached epidemic proportions.
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