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Preying on Ignorance

Brent called my office reporting a sudden problem with a program on his computer.  He received a prompt reporting it wasn’t activated and that he had a few days left to activate it before it stopped working.

I advised him that it could potentially be an issue with the manufacturer’s online activation system.  However, if it didn’t clear up, he may need to reenter his license key.

“Where would I find the license key?” he innocently asked.

After a few minutes of discussion, it appeared that he never received the proper documentation from where he purchased the software.

Several days later, Brent called back and reported the problem had been resolved.  He contacted the vendor where he purchased the software and they took care of it.  He then needed me to help with a few other issues on his PC.

IntegrityI discovered some suspicious alerts and programs on his computer while fixing his other problems.  After some research, it looked like his activation issue had been “resolved” by using a hacking program to illegally generate a license key the software thought was valid.

* * *

Dave purchased a refurbished computer from an online auction site.  He asked me to get it set up for his use, which I did.

After several months of using it, Dave called me saying that his desktop background image disappeared and a message in the bottom right corner of the screen read, “This copy of Windows is not genuine.”

I remotely logged in to his computer and checked it.  It appeared that the seller had completely erased the computer, reinstalled an enterprise version of the Windows operating system with a stolen or hacked license key, and then sold the computer.  Although it looked legitimate at first, Microsoft’s activation servers eventually detected it as a fraudulent license key, thus generating the message Dave saw.

* * *

Both of these clients got taken advantage of by vendors they trusted.  It’s appalling to think some businesses and individuals would do underhanded things just to make a buck.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”

“Integrity is choosing your thoughts and actions based on values rather than personal gains,” says another unknown author.

Consumers place their full faith and trust in service providers – auto mechanics, contractors, furnace repairmen, dentists, computer technicians – when hiring them to consult, diagnose, and repair problems they know little or nothing about.

How many times have we seen investigative news reports reveal unscrupulous businesses throughout the country ripping off customers?  It’s so easy to recommend unnecessary repairs because the customer doesn’t know any better.

But it’s not right!

I wish I could give you a simple five-step checklist that could guarantee you won’t get duped.  But I can’t.

I can, however, offer these suggestions:

Get to personally know your service provider.

Build a relationship with them.  Learn about how they live their lives, especially outside of their jobs.

“How you do anything is how you do everything,” says T. Harv Ecker.  Listen for how they think and observe how they behave.  Do they ever mention doing something questionable?  If so, it might be a sign of how they do things in their business.

Many ethical service providers give you opportunities to get to know them.  They have conversations with you – not just about what you’ve hired them for.  They share stories about themselves and their lives – both in person and in newsletters.

Ask others for recommendations, especially when you need the services of a provider you’ve never used before.

Happy, satisfied customers who personally know their providers eagerly recommend their services to their friends, family and co-workers .  Because their reputation is on the line, they wouldn’t dare recommend someone who would mistreat or take advantage of the person they referred.

Be as informed as you possibly can.

Do some online research or read books about the symptoms of your issue.  Although you can’t believe everything you read online, sometimes it can help you discern fact from fiction.

When something just doesn’t seem right, get a second opinion.

Trust your gut.  When in doubt, don’t.  There’s never anything wrong with getting a second opinion on anything when you have suspicions that what you’re being told isn’t quite right.  True professionals will understand.