10 Worst Tech Rip-Offs and How to Avoid Them

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Whether it’s a phone carrier charging you for services you don’t need or a cashier pushing pricey protection plans for your tablet, the tech-world is filled with Mobile Madoffs trying to con you out of your hard-earned cash. Fortunately, you don’t have to be the victim of information superhighway robbery. These are the 10 worst gadget rip-offs and how to avoid them.

Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director on
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  • ...and miles to go before I scream Says:

    So, RAM/cable/adapter/SSD ripoff complete with screenshots of the j'accuse! type and no Apple in sight?


  • Fairportfan Says:

    Basic rule of thumb: NEVER buy "extended warranties"/"service plans"/whatever.

    They are structured to be incredibly difficult to use and the odds are so heavily against you needing one and successfully using it are so high that you're better off - as the article says - just eating the risk.

  • Fairportfan Says:

    A) ATOM-powered WIn8 tablets run Windows RT, so, in addition to inferior hardware performance, they also deliver inferior overall performance due to their crippled OS.


    NEVER buy ANYTHING from Monster. Decades of double-blind testing have proved that virtually all of their claims are definitely bogus and the remainder are highly dubious, at best.

  • Eugene Dees Says:

    I have to agree with all the negative comments concerning Best Buy's actions and policies. They lied when they said I bought a NEW wide screen TV. It was a *refurbished* wide screen TV. When light is shined at the correct angle you can see the rubber mallet dents where they seated the frame back where it was pried up from! The TV shortly began developing a dark "smudge" that grew until it snaked its way from the top to the bottom. My next TV was from Amazon and the only problem with it were the clods that Amazon contracted to haul it in here only to leave it still in the bottom half of the shipping box. My cleaning service people helped me get it up out of there ... and Amazon gave me a $50 credit toward my next purchase.

    Oh, Yes! Let's not forget "Square Deal" ! I bought it but they refuse to set it up for me claiming that it was purchased under another email address! Amazon.com is NOT difficult to deal with so I just had them cancel it ! So far, Amazon wins !

  • J.T. Says:

    "phone's tethering feather" = "phone's tethering feature". Dang MacBook's autocorrect.

  • J.T. Says:

    You won't pay extra for using your phone's tethering feather? Who is this man's carrier? Unicorn Wireless?

    If you want to enable the hotspot on a Sprint phone, you gotta shell out $20-30 for that. I suspect other carriers are similar.

    On a more serious note, it's not wise to just outright tell readers to simply download a program like Fox.Fi to tether "without giving more money to the carrier." Generally, this risks violating your carrier's terms of service and risks getting your service disconnected or just getting slammed with an excruciatingly high bill. Further, carriers like AT&T are getting wise to this and automatically apply tethering plans to accounts of frequent offenders. Also, depending on your carrier's restrictions, tethering apps like Fox.Fi have been purposely disallowed from being installed to your device direct from the Google Play Store, meaning these apps need to be sideloaded, meaning that you may or may not have to root/jailbreak your Android/iOS device AND as we know, is HIGHLY LIKELY to void any warranty you have or may have purchased.

    Most people taking the time to read any site like this probably already know this stuff and probably aren't condemning the practice :-). Just make sure some of the less informed readers are also made aware of the risks associated.

  • Steve Says:

    I don't agree with much this author says. His approach is way too simplistic & he seems to lack the technical sophistication necessary to discuss the issues properly. I won't rip apart each of his claims but will discuss 2 as examples of his failings.

    First. You can't compare an ipad to the Surface. It's like comparing a motorcycle to a car. The ipad is for someone who doesn't need all the functionality of a computer while the surface for all intensive purposes is a laptop. As an IT professional I can appreciate a tablet running a full version of Windows, capable of running the same software as my desktops & laptops. But for off hours and for entertainment purposes I can also appreciate a lightweight, nimble tablet like the ipad. They're two separate things, for different needs. Both are valuable devices with overlapping functions but they're not the same thing. To call the Surface a ripoff is ridiculous.

    As for cables, this author and most of the readers also miss the mark. Different signals, require different quality cables (there are standards for these things). If you have a 100 Megabit Ethernet network you can use a Cat5 cable, but if you have a gigabit network you need a cat 5e cable and maybe want cat6. Different standards for different speeds. The difference is in the shielding (insolation). The same is true of HDMI cables. There are different grades for different uses. See http://dealnews.com/features/How-to-Choose-the-Right-HDMI-Cable/475907.html . Do you ever need a $79.99 HDMI cable? No. But you do need the right cable for your needs.

    Most people aren't educated consumers and the help at most of the stores that sell the electronics aren't knowledgeable enough to give customers the correct guidance. It would be my hope that these types of columns would fill in the gaps. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be the case.

  • Sebastian Says:

    To David, who wrote the second comment, I must say, you are quite a sucker, my friend. Paying $60 to Monster for a cable of worse quality than the same cable you can get from Monoprice for $4 is just wanting to throw your money away. I've had a few Monster cables and after a year or two they became useless, while the only cable that I bought from Monoprice that didn't last was because my dog chewed it. I have all kinds of HDMI cables from Monoprice of different lengths all the way up to 15 feet and they are excellent. The only cheapo HDMI cables that are bad are the ones that usually come with TV sets or Blu-ray players, the ones that are really thin. If you pay Monster $60 for a cable that costs them $1 to make, you are a sucker.

  • KevinB Says:

    Funny how he recommends getting a cheap tablet so you can then pay too much for an ultrabook. While i agree about buying something like the Kindle Fire unless you are one of the people that live out of hotels the crazy prices for the ultrabooks simply aren't worth it, not when you can buy a nice quad core laptop for less than $500. Or if size is a factor there are still places selling the last of the Asus AMD netbooks, I have one and it gets over 4 hours even after 3 years of use on the battery and is able to play 1080P over HDMI so when i'm not out and about I can easily use it as an HTPC.

    I also disagree about cheap cables, while monster cables are overpriced the ultra cheap cables have then wires and thin shielding makes for a worse picture and quicker failure. A better choice would be one of the premium cables from Monoprice, they aren't much more than the cheapies but are well made.

  • mikeh3775 Says:

    I bought a 3 yr extended warranty from Best Buy on my Panasonic Viera 42 inch Plasma TV in 2007, and 13 months later(1 month after the manufacturers warranty expired) , I had pixel die off occur on the TV. Called up Best Buy, they came out, saw what I was talking about, and called up a store and they immediately brought out a brand new Panasonic Viera 42 inch(but a 2008 model), which was actually better than the one that had issues(like 3 HDMI and the original had 2). In 2010, about 3 months before the 3 yr warranty was to expire, one of the HDMI inputs quit working, called them up, they came out, looked at it, called the store and shortly after I had a 50 inch Panasonic TV with 4 HDMI inputs. So in 3 yrs, I got two TV's out of the $100 3 yr extended warranty.

    Its stupid to say that they are not needed, pixel die off is something that can happen easily, and HDMI inputs can quit working if they get unplugged/plugged into alot(like I found out), but because of that extra cash handed over in 2007, I got both issues repaired for free. And the reason I got the 50 inch TV as a replacement, it cost the same amount as what the TV that had issues cost brand new, so they gave me an upgrade. And that TV still has not had any issues either

  • Bill Says:

    If you DO want to buy a warranty, check 3rd party vendors, like Square Trade. Sign up for their e-mails, and they will send you 30% off codes on a regular basis, plus they allow you to put an extended warranty on a new device within 30 days of purchase. So if they don't have a 30% off code this week, they likely will next week, and those codes make their "already cheaper than the big box store" warranties even cheaper! $300 to extend the warranty an extra 2 years on your laptop? I extended mine, through Square Trade, for <$75. Oh, and before anyone whines about how slow they are, they GUARANTEE a 5-day turnaround on repairs, or you get a full refund. Try getting that from the big box store warranties!

    Cheap HDMI cables can be pretty cheap, but you CAN buy inexpensive HDMI cables that will handle your 3D video for far cheaper than your Monster cables cost. Buy Monster, you're paying a 300% premium for their NAME.

  • Ed Says:

    I questioned the need for phone insurance until my SGS-II slid out of my pocket and into my cat's water bowl. Asurion tried to fob me off with newer but technologically inferior phones. I called them and let them know my displeasure. It took three weeks but I got a new SGS-II for $130 - much less than the used and refurbs were going for at the time.

  • Cyndie P. Says:

    How about EVERYONE stop buying $500 or $600 phones that you need to worry about "losing' or "breaking"? You want High Def or 3D? How about GO OUTSIDE AND EXPERIENCE NATURE? Don't need any HDMI cord for that!!!!

    Does everyone seriously need to own/be on a tablet, smartphone, yadda-yadda-yadda all of the time? You can spend A LOT LESS MONEY if you have a PHONE that is used for calls and use your computer for being on-line!!!!! Do you REALLY need to watch that latest episode of TV on your phone (I honestly wish I was an Optometrist for all of the vision problems people are going to be having with their eyes in about 5 years!) or take photos/videos with it???

    90% of technology is a ripoff because ALL OF THE MANUFACURERS/CARRIERS, etc. don't care about anything but their bottom line and profit, and society has bought into each and every single thing because they tell you you need to have it!!!! Sorry - I use my cell phone (yes, a FLIP PHONE) to make calls WHEN NECESSARY. I still READ BOOKS, write letters to friends and try to be CULTURED!!!!!!! I go to actual concerts and I DON'T VIDEO THEM AND POST TO YOU TUBE (you want to see the concert, pay for it like I did!). I still look at my Grandmother's recipies, I don't need a tablet computer in the kitchen so that I can watch a video on how to cook. I still use road maps/atlases to get from point A to B - because I don't need GPS sending me off of a cliff! I don't do SOcial Media because I value my privacy, and don't need 3000 "friends" I have never met!!!!

    Seriosuly, if you want to save money - how about you lay off of having the newest, latest gadgets every year or 2?

    FOR THE RECORD - I am a 40 year old female employed by local government and surprisingly, after that rant, am one of the most technology-smart people you would meet. I can do pretty much anything on any OS/Platform, can use software back to 1992 to current, and am the go-to for my entire Agency on any tech issue you can imagine. I know the tech, but I hate the tech and refuse to personally buy into having all of these trackable devices that are overpriced, make you anti-face to face social and take away from human interaction!

  • Larry David Says:

    Monster cables are overpriced but don't buy the cheapest. There are differences! Best Buy is Worst Buy. They sell what they need to move out of stock. Their employees are forced to do this. Their Geek Squad is overpriced and generally run by idiots. They lie and tell people their PC is dead so they will buy something new there. Warranties are always a great idea for non tech people who screw up their machine thinking its all so easy to fix.

  • JTREAD Says:

    Actually the higher the frequency a cable is called upon to carry, the greater the loss due to capacitance within the wire. Cheaper cables often use poorer quality dielectrics as well, so there is loss possible there. I know little about HDMI, but if it is being called upon to carry very fast changing states (1 to 0 and back in the digital signal), higher quality cable could well carry information necessary to properly render fast changing digital information such as is undoubtedly present in 3D video signals. Of course, those of us who sit in front of a TV with a beer or two under our belts hardly notice anything anyway, so who cares, really?

  • Chappy Says:

    Certainly Monster makes some nice products, but when it comes to cables that carry a digital signal, they're selling a whole lot of voodoo. Digital signal looks like a sawtooth - with two states - on or off. A $3 optical or HDMI cable carries that signal as well as a $50 cable. The content that's being transmitted - be it 3D video, dts, or whatever - makes no difference.

  • Willie Says:

    I would really think about going with no insurance on your cell phone. You may never need it it, but when your phone dies are you going to have the $600 (roughly) to replace it, or the time to take to find a good used one? My daughter's current phone has been replaced twice, and my previous phone had was replaced once. Neither has been abused, in fact mine was a known problem with the display dying on the phone.

  • Belinda Says:

    Read the article! It says don't buy INSURANCE, not warranties. They are not the same. And insurance is a complete ripoff.

  • Steve Says:

    All ways get warrenty on your phone, I replaced my driod X 3 times, once it got stolen and twice took a crap. For $6 a month Verizon just next days another one. Not sure where they got there info on this atricle from ???

  • pete gibson Says:

    Hey why did you not mention the biggest ripoff that best buy offered that so called buyback program that you the customer had to pay for as the years went by they paid less and less for your item

  • Notta Monster Buyer Says:

    David says "You need a high speed 3D capable HDMI [cable]."

    So David, you're saying 3D is in the wiring? Not the display device's software. Gold-plated, diamond-encrusted, platinum-named, stored-under-a-palladium-pyramid cables. As opposed to copper wires with the correct connectors that follow the industry spec.

    Monster is glad for customers like you.

  • fashionputtana Says:

    I bought the extended warranty for my unibody Macbook back 2008 and it was well worth the $400 dollars. I've had my screen replaced twice, new hard-drive and what not. Right before the warranty ran out I took it in and made sure they fixed everything and a year and half later it's still ticking!

  • Bob Price Says:

    Monster Cable's marketing has led to one of the biggest scams ever perpetrated on the American public, and I see there are some idiots here still wanting to defend their ignorance. Sure, there are bad, poorly made cables, but the specs, principles, and claims of Monster and its ilk are simply ridiculous. My favorite is "acoustic winding," or Monster Cable's claim that high and low frequencies travel on different parts of a speaker cable at different speeds and that this phenomenon induces a noticeable distortion of sound. Right. You can tell when two signals traveling for 10 to 20 feet at nearly the speed of light arrive with a 5% disparity.

    But if you spend 2000% of what LAMPCORD costs, you can correct this and here sound as it should be. Oh wait, performers don't use acoustically wound cable in live shows, so you've never heard the "correct" sound anyway. Oh wait, those frequencies would travel at different speeds in THE AIR. So it's Monster that's inducing an artificial distortion. Hey David, want to buy a bridge?

  • Joe Says:

    This article is not only idiotic, it's BS! On what planet does the iPad get 12 hours of battery life. It doesn't get close. It gets between 9-10 hours of battery life. Secondly, how in the hell is the Surface Pro a ripoff? What nonsense!

  • Phil T Says:

    Why does everybody hate on these articles? They are there to help.
    Also, go with the cheapest HDMI you can find, seriously.

  • Dstrauss Says:

    Why on god's green earth do all these idiot writers compare the Surface Pro to a bottom feeding level $499 iFad? It's like comparing a Seiko to a Timex. If the writer can write this same drivel when comparing the new glorious 128GB iFad ($799 with it's iPhone based OS, no connectivity or expansion options), to the 128GB Surface Pro ($999 with a full desktop OS, 64GB micro SDXC expansion slot, active pen digitizer, USB 3.0, display port) they are still lying through their teeth if they claim there is more "value" in the $200 less iFad.

  • JPSavard Says:

    How happen iPhone and MacBook(Pro specifically) are not in the list? Those are probably the most overpriced products to ever see the market!

    Also I don't see how the Surface Pro is overpriced since it is actually an Ultrabook and offers much more than MacBook Air for pretty much the same price.

    Yes, I bought the Surface Pro, and for a developer like me its probably the most versatile product on the market by far, and I didn't felt ripped off.

  • David Says:

    this, is a horrible article. Poor tips such as, "do not buy warranties". There also is a HUGE difference in HDMI cords. My tv came with one of the cheapo's the author suggests. I upgraded to a Monster cable much like what he said to avoid. The difference is WOW! You can't compare the two. Also if you plan to watch 3D, cheapo's won't cut it. You need a high speed 3D capable HDMI.

  • bryan Says:

    You sound incredibly cheap.

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