If you’re going to buy a new or used computer from anyone, make sure it has a sticker called a “Certificate of Authenticity” (COA). It’s worth about $150 all by itself. It’s almost always on the computer, but sometimes it’s on the box if it was a “retail” version of Windows. The key thing to look for is a number on the sticker that is 25-characters long. It’s called the “Product Key” and it’s used to install Windows. If it doesn’t have one, then the Windows software is stolen and illegal.
If there’s no COA, but the person selling it to you says that it’s “activated” and will “pass” or makes up some excuse about why it’s Ok that the sticker isn’t there, then they are lying to you. Every single copy of Windows on the planet has a sticker associated with it, and if you buy a computer without that sticker, then you’re being ripped-off.
Also, a common scam is to put a pirated copy of Windows 7 on a computer with a COA for Windows XP. Make sure the sticker matches the version of Windows installed on the computer. If the sticker says “Windows XP” but the computer has “Windows 7″, then it was either upgraded online by Microsoft and there’s an e-mail (with the Product Key) that you can get a copy of as proof, or the copy of Windows 7 is stolen and illegal.
Windows 8 is a little different because Microsoft doesn’t generally print Product Keys for them anymore. But there’s still a COA in the form of a sticker for Windows 8, and there’s a way to tell.
How To Tell: Microsoft has a website all about COA’s and how to tell if the one you’re looking at is legit. It’s not just for computers either, it’s also for anything Microsoft makes, including Office and Xbox. Go to http://www.howtotell.com and follow the instructions. If you need help, we can do that.
Also, the BBB: Most computer repair businesses in our area have no BBB rating, but if you go there and find an “F” rating or a large number of complaints, then that’s a warning sign. We have an A+ rating with the BBB. At the time of writing this post:
Also, the Internet: In the case of the Geek Squad at Best Buy, the thousands of BBB complaints “somehow” still result with an “A” rating. However, as Phoenix CBS 5 KPHO reports: Watch the Geek Squad rip-off report on YouTube.
Our favorite snake-oil salesman from Fraud-City Computers (Jerry) is facing 25-years in jail for ripping people off. We also know of many other fraudulent computer repair shops selling computers with pirated copies of Windows and are flat-out ripping people off. We know because the victims come to us to fix their computers when Microsoft turns off their pirated Windows. Protect yourself. Don’t get ripped-off, and help put these crooks out of business.