Use Caution When Allowing Remote Computer Access

By Charles Kelly

We like the ease and anonymity of letting someone repair our computers or even our networks through remote services. You give someone your credit card and then are asked to click on a link sent via email. Voila!

They are in your system and it looks very official and highly technical while in fact what you are seeing in many cases is just a highly stylized set of graphics intended to make you think that wizards are zooming through your system fixing everything that could possibly be wrong and saving the day.

In fact, in many cases these companies are outright frauds and do nothing but take your credit card and bill you ever escalating amounts as the story they tell you about your system becomes more and more dire. Often, at the end when you have been billed $300 and request a refund they politely agree and say that they will do that, but that for legal reasons they must wire the money into your checking account, so they need your account and routing numbers.

You can guess what happens after that and it is nothing good. Time to close your checking account and report that credit card as compromised.

In a slightly better version, the company bills you a little less than $100 and someone from another country remotes in and does a quick, automated fix that does improve the speed of your computer a little bit, while the software indicates that massive amounts of work has been done and the system in now “optimal.” Then they offer you discounted future or lifetime service for around $200, which often turns out to be useless and/or another opportunity to sell you something else.

What these companies neglect to tell you is that they don’t bother scanning your hard drive or memory for defects because they don’t have the ability to help you. In fact, around 40 percent of the repairs that we do involve not only software issues, but hardware defects as well.

So, if you do get a legitimate company to remote in and you do happen to have a failing hard drive, or a motherboard with bad capacitors (which can only be seen with a visual inspection), they will do the software repair and your ticking time bomb of a hard drive is left to fail, taking all of your data with it.

We do remote work for business and home customers all the time and in fact, regular maintenance for business customers is often done remotely. Remote maintenance service is less intrusive and less disruptive to the business.

The difference is that our customers operate in our geographic area and we have actual field engineers that don’t live across an ocean. They can remote in to a customer’s home or business customer and if it cannot be repaired remotely or if a failing hard drive is detected, an engineer can be dispatched to repair the machine on site or to pick the machine up to be taken to our repair facility.

The customer can also choose to drive it to one of our three retail service centers where repairs will be completed and the customer can then choose to have the machine re-delivered or they can pick it up, whichever is more convenient.

In the case of a bad mainboard or the failure of several components, the customer will often decide on a new computer. Once a computer is picked out, we will work with the customer to migrate the data to the new computer and schedule a return service call to deploy and configure it to the customer’s standards.

Rule of thumb: If your IT company exists across an ocean or in a different time zone or if there is an expensive “trip charge” involved or you feel that your personal information is at risk, you should change IT companies.

For the best results, use a local IT company that can help you quickly when you need it. For example, with three locations the farthest we have to travel is a few miles and most service calls are dispatched the same or next day. Don’t call a stranger in a strange land.

Charles Kelly is President of Computer Exchange, with four locations in the CSRA: South Augusta, North Augusta, Martinez and Grovetown. Computer Exchange specializes in computer solutions for home and business. For answers to your computer questions, email him at charles@computerexchange.com

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