Is This Rogue Installer Running A Scam On Comcast Customers?

If you live near Burke, Virginia, you might want to pay close attention when the contractor hired by Comcast comes to install your service. Rick runs a computer repair company and has twice run into the same problem with Comcast customers, where they can no longer access the Internet after an upgrade and are offered an off-the-books repair service.

I run a small computer repair and troubleshooting shop in Alexandria, VA and have been doing all kinds of computer/ networking jobs for more than 12 years.

Yesterday, I received a call from a very nice (elderly) couple who were having connectivity issues with their new Comcast 3 in 1 package installation (Phone, Cable, Internet). Basically, they were not able to connect to any internet sites after the installation, though; they had no issues prior to upgrading their service with Comcast. The service technician that came out and upgraded their service installed the new hardware and “helped” connect their computer, but was unable to do so. The couple said that the technician attempted to establish a connection for more than 2 hours but at the end failed to do so. All the while telling the couple that he was actually a contractor for Comcast and actually does computer repair/ troubleshooting as his primary job with his own little company.

Anyway, the Comcast technician finally told them that the issue was with their computer and that the operating system (Vista Home Edition) needed to be reinstalled. Here is the catch, the technician told the couple that he could do this for them but that it would not be part of the Comcast service contract. He offered to help provided they called him after he got off work for the low price of $199.99 (hmm… I’ve heard that before). The couple told him that they appreciated his effort and would consider doing so but wanted to try and get help as part of the Comcast service contract. They are on a fixed budget since they were retired.

The couple then contact every customer support number they had for their equipment to include the computer manufacturer, Router manufacturer, and Comcast once again to resolve the issue. Alas, none were able to assist since none could connect to their system and Comcast emphatically denied that it was an issue with their modem.

As a last resort they called me as I was recommended by a neighbor and asked if I could take a look at their computer. I agreed and made my way over that afternoon. Once I arrived I talked to the husband for a few minutes to get an idea of the issue and started my preliminary testing. This is how it went down:

1) I verified that the devices worked properly. Blinky lights — OK

2) I connected my own laptop to the modem. Everything was OK there too. I got an IP with no issues (68.86.X.X — I am making this number up since I do not recall the exact IP)

3) I connect to the Router (Linksys). Everything was OK there too. I got another internal IP (192.168.1.101) with no issues.

4) I verified that the Router was getting an IP from the Modem. OK there too and I was able to cruise the internet. So it must be the computer.

5) I checked the computer’s security settings (Firewall & Anti-Virus) — Everything looked OK there too.

6) I check the IP that was given to the computer from the Router via the command console by typing “ipconfig”. 10.1.10.1/ 24 — Screeech— What the heck? This isn’t right! It should have been 192.168.1.X something. Let’s see here—the network connection was assigned a static IP. Hmmm. I asked the husband if he had changed the connection to a static IP. He didn’t know what I was talking about so I went back into the Router to check that the router didn’t reset itself. It hadn’t, all the original configuration settings that it originally had were still the same (Wireless name was the same and didn’t default to “linksys”, DHCP was enabled and the IP address scope was 192.168.1.100 – 200).

7) So I reset the Connection to receive an IP from the router dynamically and low and behold, everything worked.

Now here is what makes me sick to my stomach. I had the same exact issue with another customer a few weeks prior no more than 2 blocks away from the current residence. They were also not able to connect to the internet after an upgrade and were also offered to have the problem fixed for a price. I wasn’t aware then that the technician was selling his reported services by piggy backing off of Comcast service calls at that time so I wasn’t able to connect the two events immediately since I believed that the price was an actual Comcast service quote.

I am definitely not a conspiracy theorist, but, the similarities between the two events were just uncanny.

1) The same issues after an upgrade

2) The same price to fix the problem

3) Within walking distance of each other

4) The same misconfiguration of IPs on both systems

5) The real Comcast service call prices were nowhere near the price that was quoted by the technician

6) Both customers that I helped were elderly and limited in their computing knowledge (not trying to sound arrogant)

It is my belief that there is one rogue individual who is contracted by Comcast that is exploiting Comcast customers by intentionally misconfiguring computers to put a couple extra dollars into his pocket. This is entirely unethical behavior and probably illegal. It makes me ill to think that some sleazy technician is exploiting elderly in such a way.

In any case, I wanted to make you and your readers aware of what has recently transpired in the hopes of warning any future customers from getting suckered that live in the Burke area of Virginia.

Thanks, Rick! We hope you shared this information with the couple and urged them to contact Comcast to complain. But if not, posting it here should get the message out.

(Photo: Justin Marty)