Computer Shop Suspended After Sky TV Sting

Technicians copied clients' photos and bank details

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A Hammersmith computer shop has been expelled from its trade association after a sting by Sky TV which showed its staff attempting to log into clients' bank accounts and copying their intimate holiday snaps.

The undercover investigation which targetted local PC repair shops found that five out of six wrongly diagnosed computer faults leaving their customer with an excessive bill.

To make their laptop appear faulty, the Sky News investigator loosened a memory chip to prevent Windows from loading - a repair would simply involve having the chip pushed back into place. The laptop was equipped with screen capture software and a hidden built-in webcam to capture the work of the PC repair specialists.

Revivial Computers on King Street initially claimed that a new motherboard would be needed at a cost of £130. The surveillance software captured employees browsing files and copying holiday photos onto a memory stick. Inside one of the system's documents, another employee found fake banking login details and repeatedly attempted to access the customer's bank account. The shop have refused to comment on the allegations.

The Professional Computing Association, the industry trade body of which the shop was a member, reacted to the news by suspending them. Keith Warburton, CEO of the PCA, told Sky News, "Unfortunately all industries have their rogue elements and indeed criminals, ranging from Enron to sole traders."

Shepherd's Bush repair shop Pix 4 was the only place that diagnosed the fault correctly and repaired it free of charge.

Digitech in Putney, West London, were quick to fix the fault but were also found to be browsing through the system's pictures. A Digitech technician attempted to hide his tracks by clearing the list of recent documents, and a statement from the firm states that the photo browsing was merely an attempt to ensure working memory.

Although not found to be snooping data, PC World Brentford demanded an advance payment of £230 for a new motherboard. The store has since apologised and refunded the money.

The investigation serves as a stark reminder for the less technically savvy.

Robert Feldman of Ezee-PC.com said, “It is depressing but true that there are dishonest people in every walk of life. While most of us strive to do a good job and take pride in our work there are some who will always attempt to make a living dishonestly”

July 23, 2009