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BEWARE! Data Recovery Deception: The Scams, Lies, and Tricks

Aug 17, 2007
Word to the wise: Don't be a data recovery victim. Of all the industries and businesses out there, including used car salesman, carpet cleaning companies, unscrupulous lawyers, and get-rich-quick schemes, there's one other group you can now add to the list: Data Recovery Companies. Not all of them, but many of them are using unethical tricks to get your money.

Think about it: most people are not computer savvy, they use their PC's to check email, create spreadsheets and surf the web. How many of us know what's going on inside our computer tower? How many of us have opened it up, installed additional RAM, made adjustments or added a new hard drive? Well, some of us have. But most of us haven't.

And we are the ones that are the victims of scams from "so called" data recovery specialists. Couple this with the fact that the demand for storage devices including hard disk drives, DVD's and CD's has skyrocketed, and you have a situation where things may go wrong. Storing such large amounts of data creates an increased failure rate, and people turn to the experts when they need to recover lost data.

Data recovery is becoming a major sub industry in the computer world. It involves a unique set of problem solving, software, hardware and crisis management skills. You really need someone who knows disk drives in and out. You don't want to be dealing with an un-ethical company at this time. Plus, the Data Recovery Specialist has to deal with highly frantic computer users. Losing data is an emotional experience; after all, we're dealing with people's time, talents, and intelligence not to mention their entire businesses.

Before the age of computers, the only equivalent experience would have to be losing important information, research, or other critical data to a fire or some other natural disaster.

Luckily enough for people today, that lost data can in fact be retrieved, at least 70-80% of the time. But each case presents a challenge, especially if you are dealing with an unscrupulous company.

In addition, drive capacities keep increasing which complicates the data recovery process. Different disk drive models have varying recovery rates. Clients usually bring in complex issues and want them resolved quickly and cheaply. Unfortunately, that's not always realistic. Sometimes, they can be solved quickly, but data recovery isn't inexpensive. Dealing with faulty hard drives, corrupted software or human error all have a tendency for being complex data problems.

It is very difficult to select a reliable data recovery company because there are so many, especially on the Internet. So what are the scams? How do you know you're dealing with an upstanding company? Here are a couple of things to beware of:

The Clean Room Scam

A clean room or a clean bench is a necessary tool in the data recovery industry. All legitimate data recovery companies have at least a clean bench. But it is extremely over rated. The function of the clean room is to keep environmental pollutants such as dust, airborne microbes, and chemical vapors at a bare minimum so the disk drive does not become contaminated and put in a worse state then when it came in. Because sometimes disk drives are prone to internal failure, these rooms need to be used to open up the disk drive and replace parts or do an inspection. But, they could be the place where the most used trick is employed.

It's an easy one to pull off, and many consumers are getting hit with this one. And some data recovery companies are employing this scam on consumers regardless of whether they recover the data or not! They use the Clean Room to justify charging exorbitant rates. So how does it work and what should you look out for?

Many data recovery companies advertise that they have "No Evaluation Charge". So you ship or bring your hard disk drive there for the evaluation. But once they get your drive in their hands they then call you to let you know that the drive has to "go in the clean room and it will cost $300.00 to $500.00 just for that clean room evaluation". Make sure you stop them right there or better yet ask in advance if they have clean room charges In many cases the company already knows your data is unrecoverable but would still like to make a quick $300.00 to $500.00 out of the deal.

There is even one provider we know who works out of their apartment and still pulls this trick - they don't even have a cleanroom! And if a company tries to justify cleanroom charges by saying that their clean room filters cost $30,000.00, don't believe them - it's an absolute lie.

High/Low Pricing Scheme

Most data recovery companies employ a high/low pricing scheme for data recovery which is OK if followed honestly and not used as a setup. For example if you have an 80 gig hard drive you may be quoted a price range of $400.00 to $2500.00 to recover the data. Of course the price will never ever be in the low range. It will always be in the high range, something like $2495.00 or there abouts.

So what happens? You refuse to pay the high price and the company in turn disables or destroys your hard drive so no one else can recover your data. And that's a really unfortunate situation. Actually they may have a copy of your data to hold "hostage" in case you come back looking for it again. If you do choose a company that uses high/low pricing be prepared to pay the high price right off the bat. Don't send it in and then decide you don't want to pay the high price. Your data may be lost forever.

Whatever you do, don't be a victim! Shop around, get referrals from others. Check them out with the Better Business Bureau to see if they have any complaints. It all will pay off in the end.
About the Author
This is the first in a series of articles produced by ITS - data recovery. Visit their website at http://www.datarecoveryspecialist.com
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