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How to avoid being ripped off by tech support

How to avoid being ripped off by tech support
The person you connect with via tech support may not have your best interests at heart. (Getty Images)

Gary wants to know how to avoid being ripped off by bogus tech support.

He says he recently had troubles with his iPad. Microsoft's Hotmail email service was messing with the device's software, not letting him have full use of his iPad.

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Gary says he contacted Microsoft, which told him to get in touch with Hotmail. He ended up reaching something called Click4Support.

Gary says he was charged $400 for what he considered questionable service. He wants to know who to report this to.

First of all, receiving decent tech support can be like running an obstacle course. Often you can't get anyone on the phone. And when you do, it's frequently someone who has no clue what to do.

As for Click4Support, the company is indeed certified by Microsoft to provide tech support. But that doesn't mean you're guaranteed a good experience.

The Better Business Bureau says Click4Support often makes consumers believe they're dealing with a major computer or software maker, "when in fact they are connected to a technician who works for Click4Support."

When I called the company, a technician answered with, "Technical support." It was only when I asked if I'd reached Click4Support that I was told I'd left the Microsoft universe.

Other complaints about the company, the Better Business Bureau says, involve Click4Support's tech guys misdiagnosing problems or creating new ones. It also says that "company personnel engage in high-pressure tactics to 'upsell' the company's support contracts."

The technician I spoke with said bills of $400 or more aren't uncommon. "If we find your account has been compromised," he said, "we have to use special tools to fix it."

The most important thing to remember in situations such as this is to make sure you're dealing with the company you're seeking. Ask for the tech person's name and number. If he won't give it to you, be suspicious.

Also, be wary any time money is requested. Ask for a website you can visit to see details of the service spelled out. Again, if they won't provide it, be suspicious.

Avoid any upgrades. Stick to the matter at hand.

Be especially careful if you're asked to download new software or click on an unfamiliar link.

As for who to report this kind of thing to, that would be the Federal Trade Commission.

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What I usually do, Gary, is ask a geek. If I have problems with an Apple device, I go to an Apple store. If it's a PC issue, I go to a computer shop.

Generally speaking, people you deal with face to face are more reliable than strangers you encounter online or over the phone. There's a good reason for this: You know where to find them again.

If you have a consumer question, email me at asklaz@latimes.com or contact me via Twitter @Davidlaz.

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