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Whenever somebody tells me that they gave control of their computer to an online tech support company, I get nervous... although there are reputable companies out there.

As a former Microsoft programmer, perhaps you can help me. I recently lost Hotmail. I was unable to access it and several other search sites. I kept getting the "Oops, we cannot find page." I contacted an online tech support company and gave them control of my computer. They removed several junk files, telling me that they were dangerous. I haven't had any viruses since using Kaspersky. During our lengthy online exchange, the Hotmail server came back up. The tech's claimed that they had done that, but wouldn't tell me how. I have a transcript of the entire online conversation. Did the Hotmail server come back up by itself or were these techs able to restore it?

In this excerpt from Answercast #29, I look at a case where online tech support appears to have solved a problem. All the same, it's good to be cautious.

Page not found error

So my belief is that the Hotmail server was never down. There was actually nothing going on with Hotmail itself.

The error message that you saw; the "Oops, we cannot find" is an error message that your computer generates (that your browser generates) when it's unable to connect to a site that you're trying to get to.

So if you're trying get to Hotmail (or if you're trying to get to Ask Leo!, or if you're trying to get to Google) and you can't connect, then it's going to say, "Well, we can't find it." There are several ways that could fail and one of them is that your browser is literally not be able to find the site.

Servers down?

Now, yes, that is indistinguishable from some kinds of site problems.

If the Ask Leo! server were to go down in a particular way and you tried to access Ask Leo!, then you would get the same error message. But the fact that you were seeing this both from Hotmail and (as you put it) "some other search sites" leads me to believe that the problem was indeed on your computer.

Online tech support

Now, whenever somebody tells me that they gave control of their computer to an online tech support company I get nervous. I just do... because there are too many scams associated with that kind of thing.

That being said, I'm sure that there are reputable companies out there. You haven't told me which one you were using and I will assume the best right now; because in reality, what the techs claim (that they fixed it) is in fact, very likely.

Computer not connecting

As I said, the problem was not the Hotmail server being down, the problem was probably your computer's ability to connect to the Hotmail server. They probably cleaned a couple of things; they probably tweaked a couple of things; they probably fixed a couple of things that allowed your browser to be able to connect to the various sites that you are getting to.

And of course... if they had fixed something, it would have started working while they were fixing it.

Now, being the nervous kind of person that I am, again: online tech support companies (especially when I don't know who they are) make me kind of nervous.

Backup

I would recommend that you back up your machine as soon as possible and make sure that your anti-malware tools are running, running clean and running up to date.

Like I said, there's nothing here, absolutely nothing here that would indicate that what they've done is underhanded. It's just that this kind of remote access has been used in the past as a way to get people to hand over control of their computers for infections. I don't think that's happened here, but I do think that it's always worth being extra cautious in situations like this.

Article C5508 - June 25, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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7 Comments
Robert R
June 26, 2012 8:47 AM

If a tech won't tell me what he did, I'd be suspicious. Granted they won't have time to give me every detail but if they won't tell me anything, they'd be off my list.

Dan
June 26, 2012 9:21 AM

Some techs honestly don't know what they did - other than ran a list of programs that cleaned your system. Not very many people can be an expert on everything that there is to do with a computer. Even Leo sometimes says "I am not sure". When you get a tech, you are usually getting the first line - the ones that know enough to run their set of applications to clean/fix your machine. If that doesn't work, then they bring in the experts. 99 percent of the time they don't need the expert. So - be satisified they knew a little more than you and were able to fix your problem. Really - did cleaning your cookies fix it, or the bot check, or removing history? When you fire off a batch file that runs a whole suite of programs, even I wouldn't know which one fixed it, and maybe this tech didn't want to lie to you and make something up just to make you happy.

Geldhart
June 26, 2012 11:33 AM

Been on the tech's side. Like Dan said, when troubleshooting a problem, I will often try a few things, and sometimes the problem will just go away during my troubleshooting. I am honest with my client, I will often just say, I'm not sure which of the 5 things I did fixed it, but most likely it was x, y, or z.

Bill B.
June 26, 2012 2:24 PM

While on a tech "chat" with Charter Communications (my cable internet provider), the tech rep asked questions that proved to me that he had access to my machine. The basic question I had concerning Charter's e-mail formatting were not answered after almost 30 minutes online. I expressed by dissatisfaction.

Four hours later 15-20 spam e-mails were sent out through my Yahoo contact list. Just enough so as not to trip the Yahoo Spam filter.

A word to the wise. Never, never cross a tech rep that can access you machine. This is my 2nd bad experience in the last 5 years and now will not contact ANY rep regardless of their company. They are nasty people with no checks and balances.

snert
June 26, 2012 8:40 PM

I had a problem accessing my ISP. The tech that came to my home worked via phone with her office trying various things until one worked. I got a detailed statement later in the mail listing everything done and by whom.

Chuck
June 27, 2012 4:55 AM

Thank you, Leo. I tried to be cautious and do my homework before allowing an outside tech into my computer to work on Hotmail. You referenced not knowing which company I used. It was MyTechGurus. Any knowledge of them? Incidentally, after using Kaspersky several times to scan my computer recently, I'm now getting Kaspersky ads constantly all over the place. Is this adware? I trust Kaspersky but it's annoying. Anything I should do? Thanks, again.
Chuck

Mark J
June 27, 2012 5:13 AM

@Chuck
MyTechGurus have a 92% favorable rating on Web of Trust (WOT). WOT is a user rated system and isn't perfect, but from my experience, I've found a few false positives (safe sites which were rated poor) and very few false negatives.
Web Of Trust - Website Trust Ratings from Other Internet Users

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