Sky News exposes dodgy laptop repair shops [UK]

Sky News in the UK have exposed several laptop repair shops including some big names like Micro Anvika and PC World.

During the investigation, researchers unplugged a RAM stick from a laptop to see if the shops would simply diagnose the fault or charge extra for work and components. Only one shop was genuinely honest, Pix 4 in Shepherds Bush. The rest, including Micro Anvika and PC World, charged huge amounts for work that was not required, including replacing the laptop motherboard.

Sky News found that the most serious offender was Revival Computers in Hammersmith, West London. Revival Computers snooped around the researches documents including pictures of the researcher in a bikini. The cowboys didn't stop there though, they copied the data onto a portable USB drive and opened a text file with fake Hotmail, Facebook and NatWest banking login details. One technician at the store attempted to get access to the NatWest site but failed simply because the details were fake.

The sting was setup using surveillance software on the laptop that recorded the technicians every move and filmed them using the laptops on board camera. An investigator from Trading Standards said he was "shocked" by the findings. Richard Webb, an e-commerce investigator for Trading Standards said: "I'm really quite shocked, both in the range of potential problems this has revealed - people overcharging, mis-describing the faults - but also people attempting to steal personal details."

Revival Computers in Hammersmith refused to comment on film to Sky but later denied all knowledge of the alleged abuses. Questions will surely be asked following this report on the rights and wrongs of IT technicians checking personal data. Gary Glitter was famously jailed over child porn when he took his laptop in for repair at a PC World branch in Bristol. Morally or even legally, should the technician have been looking at his data? Thankfully he did on this occasion. What would the technician have done if he found embarrassing photos instead of disgusting child porn though? Perhaps IT technicians should be regulated in the same way that lawyers, teachers and other professionals are to avoid privacy and data protection issues.

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I generally end task anything that is not explorer.exe when working on a system which is not my own. If the guy checked TASKMNGR he would have probably seen SPYCAM.exe or WAGhg.exe, or whatever. Or did they use a rootkit or some sort of proprietary hardware?

NyaR said,
I generally end task anything that is not explorer.exe when working on a system which is not my own. If the guy checked TASKMNGR he would have probably seen SPYCAM.exe or WAGhg.exe, or whatever. Or did they use a rootkit or some sort of proprietary hardware?

Task Manager ?

One if the easiest things to do is to hide a process from Microsoft's Task Manager, they used something based on service or root kit level of course so is invisible, there are many of those programs such as Spector Pro.

Also, I believe that the "engineer" wasn't suspicious of anything.

What I will do if I want to check files on a PC which is not mine is simply boot from Live Windows, so I can bypass any Windows login passwords and be sure also that my flash drive and anything else will not be infected by any virus present on the PC, and that there will be no chance that anyone know what I did if they have any sort of software such that.

Wow. This is insane. I went to training one time and was rather surprised to find that when they were setting up my laptop to use their printers and such that they were looking at all sorts of documents. It goes to show that you can't trust anyone.

I once had a placement at a local computer repair store, was awful. A woman brought in a cam recorder which she needed installed to her laptop or something... the owner of the store later on said how he was going to take the camera home and make a dirty video with his wife. The bloke was a big fat lazy slob... The sort of bloke you can imagine would run a store like that.

I heard that best buys is very bad ones where they repaired woman's laptop and hack into her laptop and looking at her tax stuff and others a few years ago...

This is the reason why I don't want to apply for a job in PC World. Everyone has told me to try there for a job but they just rip people off.

OMG that is shocking... my mouth is still open after watching that. Thank god I'm an IT engineer as well as being an analyst. I can see why people put their trust in these people because I work with Muppets all day, and all they now is how to access their files and folders and emails and that's about it. People with no computer sense at all will be ripped off without them even knowing... The people in this review clearly set a well versed trap which worked because these people were identified.

I maintain and repair all my machines, I have done for the last 10 years, and would never trust anybody to repair or even look at my computers. Thankfully I know how to lock files and folders and use software which I have tested from back to front to make sure they cannot be accessed at all.

A very shocking review and quite an astonishing investigation, especially were they tried to access bank accounts which unbeknown to him were fake. a fantastic review and article which will probably put the frighteners up some people but people like myself, whom have a advantage as I repair all my computers including laptops. upgrades and everything.

I have seen this happen quite a few times. I come across few moron engineers that think that formatting and reinstalling is only solution to OS/Software related problems. Most of the times I call the customer care and try to fix the problems related to the OS myself or do some research on the internet and follow the steps to solve the OS / software related problems or check with my family and friends.

As far as the problems related to hardware goes, as it is in extended warranty the authorized repair people can lie all they want as the replacement comes free. But if I have to leave the computer with them, I take back my hard-drive.

I wonder why new channels in India cover such stories, when such things are very common here. Just like the bad guy, there are good repair people too.

Though a professional should know better, looking at the photos is not that much of a big deal (after all, that's how they nabbed Glitter) but these kuntz, inexplicably, made their own copies of a customer's private photos, for nefarious purposes, and stole bank details.

Oh, and they could barely speak English...

These mofo scoundrels should be shut down immediately and face criminal charges.

"Motherboard needs replacing", I've been doing PC repairs, pro bono, for years and finding out that vvankers like this exist really makes my blood boil.

Sadly, a sign of the times.
Reality... using the car mechanic story if the delivered quality is not very good, very few clients arrive which translates into too much free time combined with human curiosity .
As a professional IT tech for 16 years one realises that if your product is good and you are prepared to eat quite a few work hours yourself, the public comes calling in droves and return.
Liked the story of the street repair man though who jumps and and in 10mins is finished .
But I do agree, some kind of standards should be set somewhere, cowboys, even hiding under a shiny street sign, have never been good for any business. As in car mechanics, it takes time to find a good one.

Car shops are the same. You need at least some degree of knowledge to not get ripped off by them sometimes.

I always tell family and friends to ask me (or someone else) if they need computer service, so I can give them two or three directions of shops that work honestly as far as I know.

For home or car repairs, which I don't know much, I always call my dad for advice. This way I can have an arguement with the repair people if they are telling me something outrageous or expensive, or someting that has nothing to do with the failure/broken stuff.

This is hardly surprising. Well done to Sky News for uncovering this, though. There should definitely be some kind of regulation for IT technicians.

Usually it is a duty of a technician or repair man whatever they call themselves, to check HD for kiddie pr0n.

Thats how some people got caught out. Paul Gadd a.k.a. Gary Glitter got caught that way.

That should be as far as it goes, you diagnose and do a repair and charge a fair whack, no ripping off.

It's good for business and your name gets passed on as trusted.

I do all my own PC repairs as I don't wish to get ripped off.

It isn't their duty, the only people permitted to search private data are the police, and even they have to have a warrant. Gary Glitter's kiddie pr0n was probably found by chance, but it is highly illegal for a private citizen to raid your data, regardless of how good their intentions are.

That's why I always *insist* my friends and family let me try to repair their machines (for free) before they give them to repair shops.

GEIST said,
That's why I always *insist* my friends and family let me try to repair their machines (for free) before they give them to repair shops.

I wouldnt do that much. When I came back from my exchange year abroad half of my friends and relatives had a pc to fix!

GEIST said,
That's why I always *insist* my friends and family let me try to repair their machines (for free) before they give them to repair shops.

That way you get to copy their bikini photos and try logging into their bank account? :P

I probably won't insist on it as Julius pointed out, but ever since my relatives know I'm heading back to Hong Kong for a week during Chinese New Years, I've been booked to 'fix' 4 computers so far >_<

At least my red packet will be heavier! ^_^

There's a huge line between seeing what is being copied (if you have to transfer data from a bad drive to a good one for instance) and looking through data. It comes down to the management you work for and the people you work with, and I at least can say that I work for a good company... but you HAVE to know that when you send in your computer for repair, anything and everything is able to be looked at. If you have kiddie porn on there, and your drive is on the way out, you had better hope the shop doesn't report you.

Whether or not it's done maliciously is another question, but if you've got your computer in the shop, and you don't trust the shop, or it seems flaky, then hang around and watch what they do - chances are if they're good and confident, they'll explain what they're doing through the process. Ours is fully accessible to customers, and we've never had an issue.

Im suprised this is the first time something like this has been uncovered. I've done a few repair jobs for some people on our road, but they were all 10 minute jobs like connecting the PC up when it had been delivered and getting the internet working. One time this guy was complaining of the pc being slow, popups etc so i went on the pc, checked to see if they had any sort of anti virus, they didnt, so i did the usual Spybot S&D, Hijackthis and CCleaner. Once I'd done that, i checked for the leftovers from it, and in EVERY folder in the entire pc there was copies of crappy credit card company files and porn site adverts. Within about 10 seconds of seeing the extent of it, it was evident the only way to really get the pc working nicely was to reinstall Windows.

I dont know why, but i always feel incredibly uncomfortable reinstalling windows for other people. It takes a long time to backup files since they have to do it themselves, and if they forget a vital one, it would make me feel very guilty.

While this is certainly interesting, it only serves to confirm things that we already know.

Regulation won't help. It'll only push up prices and reduce the amount of people/companies that can offer such a service (and that itself will harm competition and push prices up further). Even regulated companies could still do stuff like this; it wouldn't make any difference. In fact, it would just give people a false sense of security. It would also cost a lot of taxpayers' money to implement such a regulation system.

The problem here is people getting ripped off; people being charged too much money. Regulating this would cause people to be charged even more.

Shocking. Yes - they should be regulated!

Been working on friends & families home computers now for the last 10-15 years and it never fails to amaze me the comparative costs that places like PC World would charge for simple jobs.

Chicane-UK said,
Shocking. Yes - they should be regulated!

Been working on friends & families home computers now for the last 10-15 years and it never fails to amaze me the comparative costs that places like PC World would charge for simple jobs.


Just another case of making money off people's ignorance, its been happening for centuries, computers are just the latest tool to exploit said ignorance

I do some casual repair work and people are shocked at how little I charge for work. Some people I know have been charged about £300 to have a perfectly good motherboard replaced! Shocking!

Anyone know what software they used to track all this? Also, won't the built-in webcams busy light activate when recording video?

As I used to work at PC World, I went the extra step to be honest, and I think being pressured by managers to make money out of customers is what made me leave. All they cared about were their service margins and how they should aim to sell a certain amount of repairs/service a day, and I guess that probably had a lot to do with them charging so much money for something so simple. I always used to say, what goes around comes around. I found it disgusting how the manager would be at the desk and without even properly evaluating the problem he'd be like, "that's gonna cost you a xx quid". For people who'd have corrupted OS's and wanted their backups he'd be like "£100 as its not booting". I'm there thinking, this is embarrassing, all i'm going to do is plug their hard drives into a USB caddy and burn/copy the data off, won't take me long.

Unfortunately with most "added value" services businesses want to make money, regardless of the level of service and customer wallet. Glad you had teh balls to leave and keep your pride

Quigley Guy said,
+1

Yeah, that is hilarious, Vista, agreed by everybody to be the worse OS ever in existence, to replace one of the most stable, easy to use, and powerful OS ever. Nice one, MS fanboys.

cakesy said,
Yeah, that is hilarious, Vista, agreed by everybody to be the worse OS ever in existence, to replace one of the most stable, easy to use, and powerful OS ever. Nice one, MS fanboys.

cakesy, since when did you do a poll including everybody in the world? I'm surprised I haven't heard of it. I mean, you said "everybody", but you must have forgotten me and many other people I know.

I had a much better experience on "average" hardware with Windows Vista than I did on "average" hardware with Windows XP. Windows XP is an awful operating system. I find it annoying to use now it doesn't have a search bar in the start menu and Windows Explorer. It also looks like a kid's Fischer Price toy or something.

So, no, me and many other people who I know (there must be others out there in the world as well) do not think Windows Vista is the worst operating system ever in existence.

I think we all count in the "everybody" term.

Also, does using the word "fanboy" really ever contribute to a meaningful discussion or give a person credibility with their statements? I don't think so.

cakesy said,
Yeah, that is hilarious, Vista, agreed by everybody to be the worse OS ever in existence, to replace one of the most stable, easy to use, and powerful OS ever. Nice one, MS fanboys.


Vista hasn't been agreed by everybody to be the worst OS ever, in fact most people who use Windows 7 forget the simple fact that about 90% of its code still has Vista DNA in it. I am not going to bother responding to your claims about OSX, because they are subjective opinions, not facts.

As the article states, "If you know what you are doing, you wouldnt need to send your laptop in for repair. They know this and also know that you will have no idea what they ever did to get the laptop working, otherwise you would have fixed it yourself".

There is a real lack of care when it comes to computer support from all angles. Take your laptop in for repair, even to a big company such as PC World and you still get ripped off, all the way to phoning your ISP because of a fault. When phoning my old ISP who always had issues, i would be repeatedly told that its my fault and i have a virus, even after a complete re-format of the machine. The only way i could apprently be virus free, was to purchase my ISP's OWN antivirus.

Apparently, all other antivirus products dont pick up the viruses that theirs did and theirs is special as its built to work specifically with their internet connections... *cough* bull **** *cough*.

This is why, if i ever decided to open my own PC repair shop, i would never be able to expand. I know i can be trusted, but i wouldnt trust anyone else to carry out the standard of work and customer service that i would give, because a lot of people today are not trustworthy as proven in the article.

Rich said,
As the article states, "If you know what you are doing, you wouldnt need to send your laptop in for repair. They know this and also know that you will have no idea what they ever did to get the laptop working, otherwise you would have fixed it yourself".

The same is true about many things, not just PC and laptop repairs. If my boiler broke down, I'd not be sure how to fix it and I'd call someone out. However if my laptop failed, I'd know exactly where to start.

I believe that the majority of truly techy people have good standards of practise, but that the ever expanding need for repairs is allowing these non-techy cowboys to make a killing.

Howard said,
The same is true about many things, not just PC and laptop repairs. If my boiler broke down, I'd not be sure how to fix it and I'd call someone out. However if my laptop failed, I'd know exactly where to start.

I believe that the majority of truly techy people have good standards of practise, but that the ever expanding need for repairs is allowing these non-techy cowboys to make a killing.


I have caught many "home repair" people trying to change something that its fine.
Or even "taken by mistake" (stealing) my own tools...

Ye, I think PCWorld simply mis-diagnosed. It happens in every shop at some point, and if the laptop wasnt POSTing, it's a fairly easy mistake to make.

Revival Computers in Hammersmith is...disturbing. I've seen people look at people's pictures before in shops, but never copied them and saved bank details. That's shocking.

Obraxis said,
Ye, I think PCWorld simply mis-diagnosed. It happens in every shop at some point, and if the laptop wasnt POSTing, it's a fairly easy mistake to make.

Revival Computers in Hammersmith is...disturbing. I've seen people look at people's pictures before in shops, but never copied them and saved bank details. That's shocking.

Having worked in pcworld in the past, I know for a fact that there is also a repair option sitting at £79.99 plus parts...which itself is over the top. For the job at hand we would not of charged customers...much to the dismay of management who constantly want you to charge for every single piece of work done, regardless of how trivial the job at hand is...dirrteh basta**s!!! glad that was only a uni job and i am now freeeeeee

The PC World repair was their fixed price laptop repair service. Having worked there, I know exactly how that works.

The payment of £229.99 is made up front, and this is to cover all costs including labour, shipping and parts (of value up to £500 retail). If many parts are needing replaced (motherboard, HDD, screen for example), it can work out to be very cost effective. However, for smaller repairs, there just isn't much flexibility. We would always attempt to fix such problems (such as RAM, HDD etc) on site, without sending them away. Therefore we could price it ourselves, with simple fixes costing no more than £15.

That place in Hammersmith is shocking

I don't agree with flat charges, because I could imagine most people who go in PC world for this don't get their money's worth, i'd personally feel better with charges reflecting the work done

A good reason that when you have a problem you go to the Engineer yourself and let him repair it while you are watching...
Never leave your PC or laptop for engineer to have fun with it, better also to go with a friend who have some "basic" understanding at least if you don't.

DonC said,
And this is why I reset my laptops to factory settings when they go in for "repair".

How am I meant to do that if it is broken?

You have a point.

I guess you're stuck if it's broken beyond booting and you can't switch the HDD for another one.

Almost all repair shops charge huge amounts of money for something trivial like RAM sticks sitting out of place, loose hdd cables, etc...

They need to be regulated in some form because the final user is the one that always looses here.

Builders, architects, plumbers, gas fitters etc have done it for years and continue to do so. Its just one big circle.

SK[ said,]Builders, architects, plumbers, gas fitters etc have done it for years and continue to do so. Its just one big circle.

Off course, but the difference between those professions and repair shops is that nowadays, they seem to only rip your money off for the most trivial "repairs"...

Most repair shops are not a professional service, so why charge like the are?

Most repair shops are not a professional service, so why charge like the are?

It's simple capitalism. If people are willing to pay it, then the shops will charge it. If people weren't willing to pay it, they would bother looking elsewhere and the overpriced shops would go out of business.
That's not to say I agree with it, but to suggest they should be regulated on price is silly.

In regards to data privacy, how and where to draw the line?

If a customer become infested with spyware/viruses and takes in his/her laptop for repair, what files can the technicians open? What if a sensitive word document contains a malicious macro?

IMO there is no way to ensure data privacy on a laptop on the high street, if you want total data privacy you go to a specialist, not the high street.

Any confidential or private data should be left alone. The customer should be told if a document of theirs appears to be infected. The files should not de opened, deleted or otherwise touched by a third party. Unless the user gives permission. Personally if I need a PC/laptop repaired (that is if I can't do it myself) the disk would be removed and replaced and left blank

Well, look at it this way. I take my car to a garage, on the passenger seat is a bunch of photos of my wife naked, do I expect the mechanics to not look at them? Also on the seat is a folder with "CONFIDENTIAL" written all over it.

Why do we expect IT staff to uphold privacy any more than the Mechanic?

08993 said,
In regards to data privacy, how and where to draw the line?

In practice, the line is quite easy to draw. After working three years supporting people's computers, I never found myself in a situation where I felt the need to call over a coworker to show them revealing pictures from a user's machine, or make a copy of a person's documents for my own personal gain.

The confidentiality agreement that I had to sign in effect said to limit my access to what I needed to get the job done, and to forget about anything that I saw on a machine after I finished.

08993 said,
Well, look at it this way. I take my car to a garage, on the passenger seat is a bunch of photos of my wife naked, do I expect the mechanics to not look at them? Also on the seat is a folder with "CONFIDENTIAL" written all over it.

Why do we expect IT staff to uphold privacy any more than the Mechanic?



Really bad example, it'd be your own fault if you left naked pictures of your wife, or a confidential folder on the seat and complained the mechanic looked at it.

While, if your laptop stops booting and you have private files, logins etc stored on it, you can't do anything about it, so that technician fixing the problem has a responsibility.

You're comparing a square to a circle, there's nothing to compare.

08993 said,
In regards to data privacy, how and where to draw the line?

If a customer become infested with spyware/viruses and takes in his/her laptop for repair, what files can the technicians open? What if a sensitive word document contains a malicious macro?

IMO there is no way to ensure data privacy on a laptop on the high street, if you want total data privacy you go to a specialist, not the high street.

Unless it's a software problem you dont really know to touch the users data to fix stuff. If a memory module is faulty you run memtest or whatever. If there's a virus you could pretty much hook up the harddrive somewhere else and run an antivirus from another computer, and tell the user: you have viruses here and there. All automatic.

Ha! I hope they fry these crooks.

One of the things I don't think many people realize is that even a moron IT guy can figure out all kinds of details about you when you hand over a computer. This doesn't surprise me the guy was snooping. He's probably a dateless virgin who still lives at home with mom. I've dealt with this in the professional realm where sneaky IT people on my team were all over information they should've never had (hiring agreements, pay scales, e-mails, etc).

I don't think regulation would help prevent the snooping or the over-charging. I mean, come on, how many honest lawyers are there out there?