What do you do when your computer stops working for an unknown reason? If you’re like most people and know how to use a computer but don’t really think about what’s going on inside of it, you probably call someone who is an expert at diagnosing and repairing computer problems. That’s what I did and the following is an abbreviated version of what happened.
As a rule, I’ve always tried to trust the people I meet and do business with until I’m given a reason to feel otherwise. More and more frequently, I don’t have to wait long for someone to show their dishonest nature. This week it was the guy I called on to fix my computer after an electrical problem fried the power supply and mother board. He called himself “The Computer Doctor” and according to his ad in the paper and our brief phone conversation, he could heal my injured PC and make it better than it ever was. It was only after the fact, I learned that instances of computer repair fraud are on the rise in our technology driven society.
The good doctor suggested salvaging the good hardware from my computer and using it to build a new PC with new parts in place of the ones that were damaged. He said he could do that as well as upgrade the mother board and video card, transfer all my software and install a better system of security. He also agreed to my budget of $500.
The machine I left with him had a 2.7 gig processor, a 40 gig and a 250 gig hard drive, a CD-ROM player/burner, DVD player/burner, a 18-month-old video card with dual monitor capabilities, 1 gig of memory, a brand new TV Tuner card, 8 USB ports (2 front, 6 back), Ethernet and fire-wire ports, and mic, headphone and speaker jacks on the front as well as on back of the tower. I bought this computer 3 1/2 years ago and had it built to do what I needed it to do.
What was returned to me the next day consists of what seems to be a collection of spare parts he had lying around his shop. The mother board has a 3 gig processor and the video card is slightly more powerful but only supports one monitor. It has a 250 gig hard drive that sounds as if it has a muffler dragging. As far as I can tell he used my memory, DVD burner, TV tuner and fire-wire card. Missing were the 40 gig hard drive including my operating system and other software, CD burner and front audio ports.
Doctor Frankenstein installed an apparently pirated version of 2003 Windows XP Pro as well as numerous other programs that appear to be pirated on this monster. I suppose he’ll install the XP Home operating system that was installed on my 40 gig hard drive in a computer for his next trusting victim.
When I called the Computer Doctor, a.k.a Benedict Varella to express my concern about the scraping sound coming from this hard drive he immediately went on the defensive and told me I didn’t know anything. He then commenced to obnoxiously berate me for questioning his integrity, which I hadn’t done yet. That’s when my,”I could have had a V-8!” moment hit me.
After a minute or two of his self-righteous tirade, I hung up on Doc and started putting two and two together. No matter how I worked it I didn’t come up with four and realized I had been taken for a ride. He charged me $500 for an inferior computer full of illegal software and then kept all of my legitimate software, as well as much of my good hardware.
Since I paid for his “services” and the damage is done, I can only chalk this up to experience and try to warn others of this type of scam. Oh, I also reported him to the Business Software Alliance, a federal organization whose sole purpose is to pursue and prosecute people and businesses that use pirated software.
Hindsight is 20/20 and you can’t sue a “Computer Doctor” for malpractice, but from what I understand, the BSA will make his life hell and hopefully shut down his shady business.
Because we can’t all be experts on all subjects, we must often place our trust in people and businesses that specialize in a particular field. This is the case with attorneys, doctors, politicians, contractors and even grocers. It’s despicable, unethical, and in many cases illegal, when one of these people intentionally mislead and take advantage of the people that seek their counsel.
Before you trust the machine that contains everything from your bank records to your personal correspondence, take some time to make sure you are dealing with an honest company or individual. I suggest you always get referrals and check the references of anyone that you are going to trust with a significant expense or project. And if you do get the short end of the stick in a business deal, find a way to ensure the perpetrator is held accountable for their actions.