Steer clear of iYogi's scareware tactics

Is your PC infected with a virus? Don't ask iYogi. The India-based support firm could end up charging you big bucks to fix problems you don't actually have.

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That's when he laid the sales pitch on me, 40 minutes into the call: $429 for three years of protection, $320 for two years, $170 for one. If I wanted to clean up my PC, I had to buy in for at least a year. I had no other options.

I said no thanks. He said, wait a minute, let me talk to my supervisor. Then he came back with a cheaper deal: Two incidents per year, $100 flat fee. No thanks, I said, I'll pass. That's when Sanjib abruptly ended the call.

I felt like I had just fought off a time share sales pitch -- and I didn't even get a free toaster out of it.

For contrast, I then called McAfee's TechMaster support service about the same computer. Granted, I had a comp account, so there was no need for a sales pitch. But support tech Philip was competent and efficient, cleaned up my temp files and other problems within a few minutes, ran a virus scan (no malware detected, thank you very much Sanjib), and gave me some good advice on what programs to uninstall and how to squeeze more performance out of my system.

To be fair, my sister in law went through this same process with iYogi after her laptop got infected with a Trojan Horse last year. She got the same hard sell, only she said yes. And she says she's been happy with the service ever since. So maybe iYogi actually is competent, once you get past the BS sales pitch. But I kinda doubt it: The Better Business Bureau gives iYogi a solid F, citing 123 complaints over the last three years -- most of them about poor service, and the rest about aggressive sales tactics or billing issues.

Naturally I couldn't let this go, so I did some Googling. That's when I ran across an account by the Washington Post's KrebsOnSecurity blogger Brian Krebs that was eerily similar to mine. iYogi was providing support for Avast anti-virus software, only it was putting the same kind of high-pressure squeeze on Avast's customers. Krebs did his own call with iYogi and ended up exactly where I did -- fending off fake claims of virus infections on his system, accompanied by an aggressive sales pitch.

After Krebs' story posted, Avast suspended its use of iYogi. The India-based support company apologized and blamed "an overzealous salesperson" for "miss-selling" its product. My personal opinion: This was hardly a mistake, this was a tactic. Ten minutes into my call it was obvious to me that my "support tech" was following a script.

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