In this article we will expose one of the latest high-tech data recovery scams and offer advice on how to avoid it. Taking a few simple precautions can help you to avoid a several thousand dollar mistake when shopping for data recovery services.
Prior to finding themselves with a crashed hard drive and no recent backup of their data, a common reaction among would-be data recovery customers is to engage in frenzied last minute research as to where to get the lowest price for data recovery. With many companies listing addresses all over the country offering mail in data recovery service online for as little as $149 it can be tempting to try to save money by going outside ones local area. Herein lies the problem: There are several different levels of data recovery service, usually classified as Tier 1, 2 and 3 data recovery service. Tier 1 service is for the lightest types of hard drive damage– usually errors or bad blocks on the media surface of the hard drive where a computer is no longer able to recognize the device. Tier 2 requires typical ‘clean room’ service to swap out the hard drives read/write heads or to replace faulty firmware that was overwritten by a failure within the drive itself, and Tier 3 service is usually reserved for the worst kinds of failures– fire, flood and other disasters. These three tiers of service require vastly different equipment, time and technician skill levels. The data recovery business has some very reputable companies and also has some that are engaged in some very unscrupulous, unethical and dishonest business practices. Here we will expose the two most common scams in the industry:
- This is what we call the “Bait and switch data ransom scam”. A data recovery service provider will advertise a temptingly low price on data recovery that includes service for Tier 1 failures. They are located in another state so you have to ship your hard drive to them first. In many cases they will even send you a box in the mail along with a prepaid shipping label to transport the drive to them. As soon as they receive your failing hard drive they perform a quick and easy data recovery job on it so that they have the only existing copy of your data in the world: Then they do something that kills the drive, ring you up on the telephone and let you know that your job just happens to be a Tier 2 or Tier 3 data recovery and the price to recover it is several thousand dollars. When you are unable or unwilling to pay they ship your drive back to you; although now at this point nobody else is going to be able to recover it, so if you want your data back you will have to pay their ransom.
- While slightly less scandalous, this is no less damaging to the consumer than #1 the would-be data recovery service provider (sometimes a local computer repair shops, or others known as ‘basement warriors’) claim to offer data recovery services while failing to purchase the necessary equipment or obtain the very costly technician training to do it safely. Performing data recovery operations requires specialized equipment that costs anywhere from $20,000-50,000 per work area. Some computer repair companies or small start-ups have found it profitable to advertise data recovery service based only on their ‘knowledge’ and use nothing more than a free/inexpensive software program and an old computer. Performing data recovery operations in this manner means that they will be able to recover data in some cases and bill for it while making minimal investment, HOWEVER; upwards of half of the time their attempts will end not only in failure, but in additional damage to the drive as the read/write heads perform endless retries on bad sectors and essentially grind the media surface and read/write heads down to dust. When the attempt fails they may not charge you anything for it, but the chances of a real data recovery operation being able to recover anything from the drive at that point is essentially nil.
In order to protect yourself when shopping for data recovery service the best thing you can do is to make sure that the company possesses the right equipment and certifications to do the job (an ISO5/Class 100 clean room is a good start) and is local. The worst offenders are generally located in geographically distant places from their victims, thus ensuring that angry customers will not come knocking on their door. By staying local you can also expect to get a free diagnostic report and an exact quote on the cost of the data recovery job before releasing the hard drive into their custody.
in co-operation with IT Connect Data Recovery Lab