How To Properly Utilize Anti-Virus Software Reviews

August 29, 2011

As with several of my blog posts, this post is derived from my experiences providing volunteer support on AVG Technologies’ Facebook Community. Recently, I’ve noticed that some people, most notably a trolling community member who would return to post the same content each day, have started posting reviews and ranking lists of AV products from blogs as evidence that AVG is superior or inferior to other products.

Of course that same troll did bring us "AVG SOCKS!!!", so we can't really stay mad at him.

There are a couple of problems with this logic though.

  1. First of all, these are not necessarily reliable sources. It’s just some guy and his blog. There is no editorial oversight, there is no rigorous fact checking. These are not sources that you could turn in even to support your 8th grade essays, there’s a reason for that.
  2. Bloggers are people too. They are influenced by their own biases. A review or a product comparison is just the opinion of the person reviewing/comparing. The reviews will focus on the aspects that are important to them. They may focus on things that matter to them, but not to you. In the case of product comparisons, they may (even without knowing it) root a little too hard for their personal favorite product to get the top spot in the rankings (the very reason that I don’t do reviews on this blog, I have a bias, so it’s of little value to my readers.)
  3. Many of these people mean well and try hard, but have no idea what they’re doing. I touched on this in point one, but there’s no oversight. If these guys get something wrong or make a mistake (which from what I’ve seen happens quite frequently) then you don’t get the full picture of the product being reviewed, and that does you a disservice as a consumer relying on this source for accurate and unbiased information.
  4. In the case of YouTube videos of guys “testing” AV software, there is no utilizing the scientific method, a lack of testing standards (such as failing to use the same hardware and software environment, set of malware, etc to test each product), tests which don’t represent real world applications of the product, “It’s great that you can show me how this product would hold up in your controlled lab testing environment. It’s not so great that the controlled environment you created does not represent real world methods for how computers become infected, and therefore means nothing outside of your controlled experiment,” and generally a lack of common sense altogether.

I’m sure I could take this further, but those are personally my biggest issues with the logic of “I read this product sucks at *insert unknown, unemployed basement dweller’s blog*, so it must be true! They have tests and everything!”

So, where does this leave you as a consumer looking for information on what product to choose? Well, here are a few more points to consider.
  • Online reviews and comparisons can have value, but be sure to look at a large sampling to weed out inconsistencies and/or false claims. If you see something that doesn’t pop up often in reviews, or seems inconsistent, but is still a deal breaker for you, then try doing a bit of research to verify the claims in the reviews before making a decision.
  • Whatever you do, don’t base your entire decision off one bad (or good) review. Understand that no matter how great something is, there will always be someone out there that it didn’t work for, or that it didn’t meet their expectations (or in many cases, they misused it and therefore didn’t get the desired affect from, but I digress), and even beyond that some companies pay individuals to pose as unaffiliated consumers online, to either boost the reputation of their own products, or decimate the reputations of their competitors, so you can’t just base your entire decision off what one person has to say. Like any data set, this information only has value when it is analyzed as a whole, giving you a full picture of what you’re really looking at.
  • My top suggesting for figuring out if a product works well for you or not, is to try it for yourself. Nothing you read elsewhere is worth your own personal experiences with a product. You can’t please everyone, so someone will always have something bad to say about anything, rather than basing your opinion off of what someone else tells you to think, try out the product for yourself, and decide if it works well for you based on your own opinion. Luckily with AVG you have the option of free trials or even a completely free version to decide if you like it before you buy!

This advice can serve you well beyond just choosing an Anti-Virus product like AVG, much of it applies to any buying decision you might base off of unverifiable reviews, comparisons, and other opinions.


My Thoughts on the Social Networking Privacy Act

May 22, 2011

There is currently a lot of debate about the Social Networking Privacy Act, proposed by US Senator Ellen Corbett. The act seeks to force social networks, such as Facebook, to make it the default option that users’ information is hidden. I thought that I would join in on the debate as well, and logically I chose this blog to be my platform for sharing my two cents.

While I agree that it is best that privacy settings be set to their most secure and locked down state by default, I personally don’t believe the government should have so much of a part in it. This bill would benefit people who don’t know how to secure their information, but as others have stated, everything is not so cut and dry in Washington as the government would have you believe. I’m not into conspiracies and general mistrust of the government, but I do recognize that there is a lot of corruption in Washington, and that politics is a game of manipulating others so that your point of view becomes the law of the land. There are many sneaky things going on, sneaking things into bills and only discussing the positive merits of the bill, “grassroots” campaigns, PACs, and parties that are actually ran by major party members with tons of capital backing them up (that’s the meaning of grassroots, right?), and all sorts of other unfortunate shenanigans.

Government regulation of the Internet is a bad thing. All the rich guys (read: politicians) who don’t know what it’s really like to actually live in our world, to live on our salaries, or to deal with our daily problems, are not the ideal people to go to when it comes to deciding what’s best for the rest of us. Not to mention that many of these people further expanded their wealthy by abusing the power of their office. Take for example that many times large corporations donate to a candidate’s campaign. This is not free money because they like the candidate, this is basically a legal bribe, and when they have a certain piece of legislation that they want passed, perhaps something that is unpopular because it’s good for this small group of people and bad for everyone else, then they’re going to come to call in that favor. These are the sort of reasons that many of our laws today are against our own best interests, why our government’s power is growing far beyond what our constitution grants it, and why we don’t want them deciding what’s best for our Internet, because as a whole they tend to be uninformed about many of the issues they decide on, and easily influenced by the people who helped them get where they are, people who don’t tend to have anyone’s best interest at heart but their own.I agree that it would be wonderful if it could be as cut and dry as, “the government says you guys have to set privacy settings to hidden by default” and that was the end of it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. Even more far reaching than anything else unfortunate that gets snuck into the bill that isn’t advertised to the general public, is the fact that by passing any piece of legislature, you are also setting a precedent. In our government, and our legal system (which is actually the Judicial branch of our government) precedents are very important. Basically what it means is that when you’re looking at whether to pass a new bill, or whether to decide on a case if you’re a judge, then you look at how people who are or were in your position decided on similar cases from the past. That’s why lawyers tend to study similar cases to the client their representing’s case, because chances are past decisions by other judges in similar cases will have at least some, likely a lot, of weight in the judge’s decision. The reason for this is that judges and politicians are only human, they cannot know every aspect of how everything in the world that they must decide on works, so oftentimes they look at past decisions by others in similar positions for guidance. My point being that if you pass a piece of legislature that approves government regulation of the Internet, even a good one such as this, then you make the next proposed government regulation of the Internet more acceptable. The next proposal for government regulation may not be such a good thing, but by passing this act, you’ve made it easier for a future unpopular attempt for government regulation to pass, because there’s a precedent for government regulation then.

I think that it would be great if it were that simple, but it really isn’t. I still think that the best way to go is education, like what we do at the AVG Community. Teach people that they need to be aware of what their privacy settings are. That they shouldn’t share anything online that they wouldn’t feel comfortable becoming public information. As others have correctly stated, no one but you is responsible for your data, and oftentimes when you put too much trust in someone else with your data, you’ll get burned. Keep track of what you’re sharing and who’s allowed to see it, rather than depend on a private company that’s only interested in profit (Facebook), or the federal government to take care of you.

Oversharing Is An Education Issue

I’ve also noticed that a lot of people complain that “many people aren’t “savvy” enough to know how to control their privacy settings.”

This is also an education issue. As we move into a more connected world, where almost everything is moving towards information, and the ability to access and share it from anywhere, anytime, we have to learn how to correctly control our own personal information. When you’re raising your children, you don’t go to the government and ask them to pass a bill saying that kids have to stay out of the street. You teach them not to play in the street, and what might happen to them if they do.

I like the analogy that “people who don’t have a license shouldn’t be driving cars.” In our connected age, it’s no longer acceptable to be ignorant of how to monitor and control your personal information. You need to be able to identify what’s personal, and when, where, and how you should share it. If you make an account on any type of website, you need to take personal responsibility for ensuring your information stays private. If you’re going to get behind the wheel, then for both your safety as well as the safety of others, you must first learn how to drive safely. The same can be said for getting online. If you’re going to share information online, then you should first learn how to do that safely, for your own benefit. It’s not as though there are a lack of resources out there. AVG regularly shares information through the AVG Community to help you, AVG employees and helpful volunteers (such as myself) are more than happy to answer any questions that anyone may have about how to safely share their information, this very blog has many articles about staying safe online, and there are thousands of other resources online to help you as well.

There’s no excuse for not understanding other than not taking the time and effort to try to understand. And I don’t find that acceptable in our information driven world. It’s akin to taking the wheel of a car without even knowing what it’s called and must less how to drive it. It’s no longer about “that’s too technical for me” that’s the same as saying that how the gear shift in your car works is too technical for you to bother to try to understand as you mistakenly plow into the car behind you while in reverse, because you expected to go forward. Information is an important part of our world today, and it’s only becoming more so important. I recommend you learn how to control it.

The answer to “people don’t understand how to protect their own personal information” isn’t to have the government protect it for them. Facebook and other social networking sites are by far not the only places personal information can be shared, this act isn’t a fix, it’s just a band-aid over the underlying problem.

This is an education issue. When you’re a kid how do you know to call 911 if someone is injured? How do you know not to talk to strangers? That’s because you were taught in school or by your parents, likely both. The answer to this problem is for correctly classifying information as personal and knowing what information to share and what not to share, as well as how to monitor and control that information, to become as much a part of the learning process as the common knowledge I referenced above.

I Have Anti-Virus Software, Am I Safe?

April 13, 2011

I’ve heard many different variations of the question “I have anti-virus software, am I safe?” from friends, family, clients, AVG Community members, and even strangers. As hot a topic as this is, I felt it was a question worth addressing.

This isn’t a simple “yes or no” question though. The short answer is “it depends.” There are multiple factors at play that can contribute to your susceptibility to being infected by a virus despite having anti-virus software installed, some of which include…

  • Which software you’re using is a key influence. As with pretty much anything mankind has ever manufactured, quality of products differs between manufacturers, and although software isn’t necessarily a tangible good, the same age-old rule applies. Some companies make a better product than others, and some of the free software is better than some of the paid software. Based on my personal experiences with many different AV products, my professional experiences working with my IT consulting business and many other businesses, and my extensive knowledge of InfoSec in general, I recommend AVG. Free or paid, I’ve used both and they both do a great job.
  • What features your software has available is equally important. This ties in with the previous point, different vendors offer different features. Some AV software includes sand-boxing (a type of virtualization) to put a layer of separation between files or applications and your operating system, some include social networking protection, or the ability to check the safety of websites without having to actually visit them. It’s up to you to decide which features are most relevant to your own personal computing habits and keeping you safe while you go about your typical online activities.
  • Your personal computing habits are an interesting element because this causes the answer to the question posed by this article to differ completely depending on who is asking it. There are actions you can take that will undermine the protection your AV software has afforded you. There are threats out there that specifically prey on your trust to manipulate you into allowing them to have their way with your computer. Through the practice of social engineering (basically a type of con), instead of superior coding and advanced technology, these threats can infect your computer. No amount of technology and features in your AV software will protect you from these threats. The best defense against these threats is safe browsing habits and educating yourself on the types of threats that are out there.
  • Some infections are unavoidable. It’s sad, but true. There are at least 25,000 new malware variants released each day. It is impossible to keep up with that volume of malicious software on a daily basis, and while many AV vendors do a great job of gathering samples, creating virus definitions, and getting those virus definitions released to their users in updates, as well as utilizing technologies like behavioral detection, none of them can catch everything. As such, at any given time there are at least a few, and likely many more, malicious pieces of software floating around the web that your anti-virus won’t pick up on.
  • Are you using multiple anti-virus programs? In the case of anti-virus software, less is more. Most anti-virus software includes processes which “lock” specific files, a way for the anti-virus software to dynamically monitor your files in real time. This works great with one program, but when you add a second anti-virus program that offers full, active protection this can lead to one program not being able to function properly, making it useless (but not preventing it from consuming your system’s resources) or even making it interfere with the functionality of the other anti-virus software you have installed. What’s the best solution if you want a second opinion when you scan? Use an on-demand scanner like Malwarebytes Free alongside your primary anti-virus software. Malewarebytes Free does nothing to actively protect you against viruses (so it won’t interfere with any AV software that does), and only scans when you start a scan manually, but it does a great job of detecting and removing most malware that may slip past your primary anti-virus software.

As you can see, the question “I have anti-virus software, am I safe?” has a multifaceted answer that differs based on which brand you’re using, how you use your computer, how educated you are on how the threats and scams work, and in some cases pure luck. You are of course much safer using anti-virus software than you would be if you were not, but it’s important to remember that anti-virus software is not your get out of jail free card to do whatever you want on the Internet and not worry about getting infected. You can increase your odds of avoiding viruses even more by practicing safe browsing habits and becoming more educated on how online threats work and how to identify and avoid them. One great way to do that is by “Liking” the AVG Facebook Community, where information on the latest threats and how to stay safe online is shared, and your questions can be answered by knowledgeable volunteers (such as myself) and AVG staff.

5 Simple Tips To Guard Your Facebook From Hackers

March 20, 2011

As usual, the idea for this post came to me through my efforts to provide volunteer support to the AVG Online Community. While researching an example to prove to another community member that AVG’s LinkScanner is superior to a competing product, I encountered an AVG user in the comments section of the AVG Threat Labs report page for Facebook. He stated that his Facebook account was being continuously hacked, and wanted to know what AVG could do to help him with this. While there isn’t really an outright technological solution to this problem, I decided to write this post to address this issue. This blog post is also featured on AVG’s Social Media Blog!

So I present to you five tips that will keep hackers out of your Facebook account.

1. Be sure to use strong and diverse passwords. Don’t use a simple and easy to crack or guess password, and don’t use the same password across multiple online accounts. If one account is compromised by a hacker then that same password can be used to compromise all of your other accounts.

2. Be aware of your security questions. Security Questions are backdoors built into most online accounts to help you gain access to your account if you should ever forget your password, so that you’re not just forever locked out of your account. Consider that with all the information we share on social networking platforms like Facebook, security questions with answers that can be readily found on your Facebook profile, such as “Where did you go to high school?, What was your first pet’s name?, or “What is your mother’s maiden name?” are not going to cut it! Also consider that many times the people who compromise your online accounts or steal your identity are people you are close to or know personally, so even more personal questions may not work in all cases. My recommendation is to make a contrived answer to the question that you can remember. This way even people who would know the correct answer to your security questions could not use them to gain access to your accounts.

3. Beware of phishing sites. Always be sure that you’re at when you log in. That way you are sure that you’re not at a duplicate site that copies the look of Facebook and has a *similar* URL, but is actually a clone that will store your login information in a database for hackers. If you were to ever realize you submitted your information at one of these fake login pages, immediately change your password and the hacker will be unable to access your account when they later try the e-mail and password combination you accidentally provided to them. The above login address also has the benefit of being an encrypted login page! This is great if you’re on a public network, as it prevents other people on that same network from being able to intercept the IP packets containing your login information!

4. Always remember to log out if you access Facebook on a public computer. If you leave yourself logged in then anyone who finds your account left up on the computer in their house, the local public library, etc is a potential hacker! They can go through your personal mails, post status updates as you, contact your friends impersonating you, etc. Worst of all they wouldn ‘t have to do anything to gain access other than navigate to Facebook. So be sure to log out of Facebook on any computer that someone else may potentially use when you’re done with it!

5. Setup your account to experience Facebook through a completely encrypted connection whenever possible. This is again great if you’re on a public network or computer and want to be sure no one else on that network or who later uses that computer can get at your information or “sniff” your IP packets. Here are some great step by step instructions I found to setting this feature up on your Facebook account!

By following these five simple tips you can keep hackers out of your Facebook profile and be confident in knowing that no one is going through your personal mail or impersonating you through your account!

Craigslist Rental Ripoff

March 17, 2011

I recently visited the Anderson Districts I & II Career and Technology Center‘s Computer Repair and Networking Class, where I presented on the importance of end-user education in keeping users safe online, explained my work with AVG Technologies, and fielded some questions in a Q&A session with the students.

One thing that came up during that presentation was an anecdotal story from one of the students, who said his family were nearly victims of a home rental scam on Craigslist. I’ve heard similar stories from others recently, and another AVG Community member who actively helps on the AVG Facebook page encountered one as he was searching for an apartment.

Considering how renting property you don’t own seems to be all the rage amongst cyber criminals as of late, I thought I would share some tips to help you avoid these clever criminal entrepreneur’s schemes.

  • As Craigslist already suggests as a golden rule in any transaction, deal locally. It is unlikely that the owner of a rental property will live ridiculously far from the property being rented. So there’s no reason that the landlord shouldn’t be able to meet with you in person if the property is local.
  • Look for the hallmarks common to any scam:
  1. A convoluted back-story to provide a series of ridiculous excuses to avoid transacting in person.
  2. Requests for wire transfers.
  3. Assurance of a guarantee on your transaction (Craigslist provides no such guarantee).
  4. A poor command of the English language (grammar and spelling).
  • View the property and meet the owner in person. If you’re moving far away from your current location and cannot deal locally  I would recommend talking extensively with any purported property owner by e-mail first, looking for any of the signs mentioned above. By pre-screening you can weed out any scams before you waste your time and money traveling to see property you can’t rent or own.
  • Speak with the neighbors when you view a property in person. Chances are they will know about the owner of the property, and can probably tell you if it is indeed the person you encountered in your e-mail correspondence.  They will also be able to tell you if the property is really available or if it is currently occupied, a sure sign that you’re being ripped off.
  • Don’t send off personal information via e-mail before knowing you’re dealing with a reputable individual who does indeed own the property you’re interested in.
  • Don’t agree to having keys mailed to you for a self-guided walk-through for a small fee. This is also a common tactic across scams renting property they don’t own. This suggestion will of course be accompanied by the aforementioned convoluted back-story to explain why they cannot be there in person.
  • Cross check with other rental or realty listing sources. If property really is for rent or sale it will likely be listed in several places. But be aware that the scams sometimes try to pass off for sale properties as for rent. Just because it is for rent or sale doesn’t mean you’re really speaking with the owner.
  • Be on the lookout for deals that are just too good to be true. It’s easier to convince people to do something dangerous like wiring money to strangers if they feel like they’re passing up an amazing deal if they don’t. Even if it’s not a scam, if the price looks too good to be true there are probably some issues you need to know about the property.
  • Last but not least, go with your gut! If your instincts tell you something’s not right, trust them and back away from the transaction. Better safe than sorry!

By following the advice contained in these few simple tips, you can identify and avoid housing scams and rental scams on Craigslist, and feel confident in your digital search for shelter!

Yext Ripoff, How An Internet Marketing Service Took Me For A Ride.

February 6, 2011

I’ve had a terrible experience with a company called Yext. Their tagline is “Bringing the power of internet advertising to all local businesses” The business model makes absolutely no sense. Basically they’re an advertising service that was supposed to bring in new customers to my business at a fixed rate per customer.  One of Yext’s account representatives called me about a year ago to get me signed up. That’s one phone call I wish I had never answered. The way the service was explained to me was that I would only pay them when they brought me a new customer. I would pay $30 for the first time this customer came to me, but after that I would never pay Yext another penny for that customer. And if that’s how it truly worked then this post would be titled something like “Why Yext is an invaluable tool for my small business,” or “achieve more with Yext!” or something along those lines. Unfortunately this is not the case.

My primary concern is of course the cost. If Yext really were bringing in new customers for me then $30 would be a reasonable expense for all the new customers I’d be bringing in, which leads to more referrals, repeat customers, and more income. However, I’ve ended up shelling out $120 so far without getting a single customer, or a single dollar, in return. You see, what the account representative failed to mention, among the things he selectively left out of his explanation of the service, was that their services are not guaranteed. So long as someone calls the Yext proxy phone number, which will connect them to my cell phone, so long as they mention the word computer it’s going to cost me $30.  That’s right, even if I don’t actually get a customer from the call, I’ve still got to fork over my money to Yext.

Now, of course that’s also my fault for not reading the fine print. Anytime you’re dealing with a snake-oil salesman, they’re going to explain it one way, and the fine print in the terms and conditions are going to explain it a different way. But in my defense, I specifically asked the man “is there any catch to this,” “are you leaving anything important out,” and “are there any more hidden costs I should know about.” I was lied to when he answered my questions. I was pretty happy with their service at first. I got mostly “junk” calls from Yext, for some reason a lot of people seemed to think that because I can fix a computer I can fix a refrigerator. But they didn’t bill me for them, and it wasn’t really costing me anything, but they had put my information on a lot of different sites and some “partner networks” that I normally couldn’t have gotten my info on anyway, so it always had the potential to bring in some profit, and it wasn’t hurting me.

The problems started when Yext’s service actually started doing what it was supposed to, getting me phone calls relevant to my business. I know that seems like a strange thing to say, but try to follow my logic here. Up until I started using Yext I got all my customers from referrals from current customers, even my business clients! (To be more accurate it’s still that way, even with Yext.) So, I had never had to deal with the issue of people off the street calling for a price check, comparing me to everyone else, and then going with the guy who offered to do it for next to nothing. It’s easy for me to retain clients when I’ve worked for them, or when someone I’ve worked for has personally recommended me to them, because those people know how knowledgeable I am, how hard I work, and how I always go above and beyond to provide the best work and customer service to my clients. However, it’s not so easy to get clients in the door when all they’re asking for is a number, and then comparing it to some numbers from other guys and going with the lowest common denominator.

So, not foreseeing calls like that which were dead ends, and not being armed with the knowledge that any call which mentions some key words like “computer” would be billed at $30 a piece, I was very surprised to find I was being billed for simply taking a call.

Yext’s business model is ridiculous! This would be like me billing people a $30 fee just for a price check call, even if I don’t actually provide any valuable service to them. In fact that’s exactly what it is. The only feasible way that I could continue using Yext’s services is if I did charge a ridiculous fee like that.

One thing that really got me was that I was billed for a call from this confused old lady who apparently had found my number on the Internet and mistook me for a guy who usually did her computer work. She lived outside my service area as well. Of course this didn’t lead to any work for me, only another $30 expense.

The other really big issue with Yext is that they will say anything to get you on board and keep you on board, but they’re terrible at keeping the promises they make, or just refraining from flat out telling lies to you. Let me spell out to you the various deceptions and incompetence I’ve been faced with from the people at Yext.

  • I was told there were no hidden cost, yet when I called Yext about the charges, I was informed that their services were not guaranteed. Well, perhaps that’s something you should mention. Explain it as, you pay per call, rather than you pay per customer, that’s a much more accurate description than I was given.
  • Hidden costs again. I was told they would waive the $10 monthly service charge to make up for their abysmal service. My response was “What damn service charge? I haven’t been giving you any money up until now.” Apparently because I hadn’t been getting “qualified calls” (billable calls) they weren’t charging me this yet. But since I was getting these useless calls they could bill me for this on top of the calls now.
  • When the account representative setup my account for me, I asked him to set it up so that I would have a 20 mile service area. When I contacted Yext customer service about the bs charges they informed me I had a 5 mile service area. 5 miles. I live in a semi-rural area. 5 miles is nothing out here.
  • I also discovered that I was listed on something called the “Google Click to Call Network.” Evan, the “customer specialist” I spoke with, informed me of this. He described it as something where people often didn’t even know what they were calling about, as in, they don’t know what kind of service I provide when they call. That explains all the annoying calls about refrigerator repair. What it doesn’t explain, however, is how it looks good for a company which is charging me per call to, without my knowledge, sign me up for a marketing service networking where people are blindly calling me and have no idea what I actually do. Seems like a way to increase call volumes without adding value at the expense of their customers to me. They removed me from this network when I complained about the service I was receiving from them in addition to waiving the maintenance fee.
  • This is probably the most shocking part of it all for me. What I’m paying Yext for is pretty clear. To post my information across several online sites that display information for services, monitor those sites for reviews, and I pay them when I get new customers (sorry, when I get any calls at all). Yet when I started poking around on the different accounts to see why I wasn’t getting any value out of this service, I found that most, if not all, of the account were half-assed filled out. Most only had my business name, number, and hours of operation. None of the other info I provided to them or on my own accounts was shared. I mean, come on! This is the main thing I’m paying Yext for, to create, fill out, and monitor these accounts so I don’t have to. And they weren’t doing it.

To summarize, I find Yext to be a terrible fit for my business. I was lied to when I was signed up, empty promises were made to me when I raised concerns with their support staff when I started having problems, while they did try to make a difference by waiving the monthly fee and taking me off this network that was fraudulently inflating my call volume, in the end it just didn’t make a difference. They didn’t really do what they told me they would, which is something that I expect from people I do business with, clarity and honesty.

I would recommend that you stay away from Yext if you’re a small business. Their business model of charging you $30 per call and $120 a year on top of that for something you could do better yourself for free in 5 minutes just doesn’t work. Maybe if they charged something more reasonable, like a few dollars per call, then it would fit in a budget. However, as long as they aren’t posting the information your provide to them, aren’t setting up your service areas properly, overcharging you for customers they’re not bringing in, and omitting facts to sign you up, they’re not going to be adding value to your business. If you can afford to hemorrhage money for simple phone calls, then go for it, but if you’re running your business on a budget (and who isn’t?) then this company is not for you.

When I contacted their support to reverse the charges and cancel my service, they convinced me to stay with empty promises and some small discounts. But even after they removed me from this “Click To Call” network and waived my service fee, it’s still to expensive to keep when it’s not adding any value. They refuse to give me my refund, so instead I’ll share my experiences with this company with all my readers and the Internet at large. I hope the $120 they refuse to refund is worth it. I’m calling tomorrow morning to cancel my account before they can get their greedy hands stretched out again for my hard earned money in return for absolutely nothing. The moral of this story? Read the fine print, and be careful who you do business with. There are good marketing companies out there, but Yext isn’t one of them.

I’m not the only one to be hurt by Yext either. Check out this comment where Yext actually damaged the brand of one of their clients over $165. Damaged the brand of a client over $165, consider that for a moment. Are these the kind of people you want to be in business with? Here’s yet another comment where yet another business was not informed of Yext’s actual policy on calls that don’t generate business, and refused a refund upfront for these bogus charges. It was not explained to them upfront, this is how Yext operates, ripping small businesses off for as long as they can until they drop them.

Have you had a bad experience with Yext? Or know someone who has? I invite you to post a link to your own blog post about a bad experience with Yext in the comments below or share your experiences in the comments. I want to hear from you!

Update!: An interesting thing happened today before I had a chance to contact Yext Customer Service. Just several hours after posting this blog and sharing the link on their Facebook page, without ever talking directly or indirectly to anyone at Yext, I was issued a refund confirmation from Yext for $60, the cost of the latest “qualified calls” I was being billed for that never brought me any work. It’s not everything that I’m out of, but it is at least half. And I must admit, when you don’t even have to contact customer service to get your refund, that’s some top notch customer service. I’ve got to give them some credit for that. Unfortunately, I had requested a refund the first time this happened and was simply told, “Our services are not guaranteed.” So, it seems the only reason I’m getting a refund is that I got a little more vocal than they cared for. Still, I appreciate the refund, I really can’t spare any money right now without some kind of return on that investment. I do appreciate this turn of events and the excellent customer service that I was eventually provided with, but I will still be canceling my Yext service tomorrow morning. No matter how good the customer service is, it can’t make up for the fact that Yext and their business model just don’t work for my business. Thanks for being considerate and providing me with my refund Yext! I appreciate it, and no hard feelings, but this is where we go our separate ways.

Thank You,
Zachary Chastain
RunPC Computer Repair

Keep Support On The Facebook Page

January 28, 2011

While many of us are very active within the community, no matter how active we are we do not want to take support off the page and into private messages. At least not as an initial resource for community members to gain support. Here’s a few reasons we don’t want to do this.

  1. We are a community. When we have people post their problems or questions on the Facebook Page we can all collaborate together to answer those questions and troubleshoot those problems. This allows us to quality assure community member’s answers, because if someone else notices information provided isn’t exactly correct, they can politely point that out and provide the correction.
  2. We are not all individually available 24/7. We are pretty well close to providing 24/7 support on the AVG Facebook page. Day and night, weekends and holidays, there are people available to help the community who actively do so. This makes the page a great resource for people seeking help. Together we are able to achieve this amazing feat, but individually, our response times would be much less impressive if people were constantly contacting us privately by FB message for help.

As you can see, when we provide support on the Facebook page, we harness the power of the community to provide quick response times, quality assured answers, and the collaborative knowledge of several people per issue/question.

However, when we bring support into private messages as an initial contact by encouraging community members to simply message us their problems, we actually undermine the power of the community and can end up compromising the quality and expediency of the support provided if we become overwhelmed or are simply unavailable for an extended period of time. Situations where we could have relied on other people who were knowledgeable about the problem or question at hand, or were simply available sooner to provide an answer, could turn into situations where we are on our own and end up leaving customers hanging with no response or a shoddy response.

Private Messages Are Ok For Quick Follow Ups, But Try to Avoid Them For Initial Support Options. Here's An Example Of A Follow Up From Someone I Helped On The AVG Facebook Page.

So, when is it a good idea to contact a community member or have them contact you by private message? Generally you’ll want to contact them privately if you’re going to remotely connect with them to help them troubleshoot a particularly difficult problem, or if you were just speaking with them on the FB page and they shoot you a quick follow up question by message. If someone contacts you by message to resolve a problem they haven’t tried to get help through the community with, I would suggest recommending they post their question on the AVG Facebook Page, where you and other community members can help them work through their problem or answer their questions.

Remember to go back and post in the comments of the corresponding wall post on the Facebook page that the issue has been resolved if someone contacts you by message to finish resolving a problem, so that others aren’t spending time trying to solve a problem that’s already been resolved.

Thank You,
Zachary Chastain
AVG Superfan
AVG Community VIP

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