hackersWe’re amazed at the info a website can collect about us without our doing anything but visiting.

The other day, we were channel surfing and stopped to watch the famous pitchman Ron Popeil.  He was pitching Ronco knives on TV and on a whim Joy decided to visit  his website, to see what else he was doing. She came, she saw, she left — without ordering anything or giving our name, address or credit card information. A few days later, a giant box containing 22 pounds of knives and  a holding block arrived. Guess what? We were about to be billed a couple hundred bucks for our “order.” We called Fed Ex and marked it return to sender.

This seems to be an old business model. It reminded us of the Book of the Month Club. Dealing with them, you had to formally refuse a book, otherwise they would send it and bill you, informing you that by not refusing it, you had ordered it.. Hello, sucker. They’re gone, but similar practices still go on.

A few days after our surprise knives delivery, a reader asked us about a “PCMatics” ad he saw on TV.  We told him to run for the hills, just on general principles. But what if it was actually a good deal? How do you check these things out? Well, the fastest and simplest way is whenever you see a deal that raises an eyebrow or two, go to, type in the product’s name and add the word “reviews.” When we checked “PCMatics reviews,” we saw a truck load of complaints.

PCMatics — and there are several other outfits like this — will diagnose your computer’s problems for a low cost, sometimes for free. But if you want them fixed, there’s a hefty fee.  A Naval officer reported that PCMatics totally messed up his two computers. Another customer said he called the company because his computer got a virus as soon as he installed their software. He was told he needed to pay $189 plus the cost of labor to get rid of it. So he cancelled his subscription immediately and asked for a refund. Didn’t happen. In fact, no one answered the phone when he called back.

If your computer is working fine and your anti-virus program is up for renewal, renew it. And beware of any “magic stick” or similar promises to fix any computer problems.

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