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Identify and Avoid Tech Scams: How to Spot the Warning Signs

Krazy Ken of the Computer Clan YouTube channel talks about tech scams and how to spot them.

Technology is advancing rapidly. It seems like every day something that used to be the purview of science fiction becomes a reality. But scammers are taking advantage of this to make tech scams look like legitimate products. Learn how to identify tech scams to avoid spending money on a useless product.


See How to Avoid Scammy Tech with Ken from Computer Clan for a complete transcript of the Easy Prey podcast episode.

Known as “Krazy Ken” to his YouTube viewers, Ken has been running the Computer Clan channel since September 2007. His videos cover new tech, rare tech, and retro tech, as well as a series debunking tech scams. Whether you’re not all that familiar with technology or you’re a tech whiz, you’ll find something to enjoy in Ken’s combination of entertainment, science, knowledge, and scam debunking.

The Story of Computer Clan

Ken has been running Computer Clan for fifteen years, which makes it one of the longest-running tech channels in YouTube history. But he didn’t start by making videos about technology. He just wanted to make funny skits with friends. It wasn’t until he started collecting tech stuff and filmed a video about it that he realized other people were interested. In fact, his videos about technology got more views than anything else on his channel.

Ken started making more videos about technology. At first, he filmed everything with a small Sony Handycam, but as more and more people started watching his videos, he realized he could make them look better. He bought a DSLR camera and started learning how to shoot video properly. And the views and comments kept coming in. At 2,500 subscribers, he thought he was doing pretty well.

Even though he still had a day job, Ken put a lot of work into the YouTube channel. He finally got to the point where he worked 40 hours a week at his day job and put in an additional 30-40 hours on the channel. By the time Computer Clan hit 300,000 subscribers, Ken realized he had to make a choice between YouTube and his day job. He chose YouTube. Four months ago he quit his day job to work on Computer Clan full-time, and it’s just kept growing.

From Tech Videos to Tech Scams

The Computer Clan series debunking tech scams started when Ken saw an ad for a product on YouTube. It was a solar charger to charge your phone. The ad claimed it would fully charge a phone in sixty minutes. The solar part of it was the size of a Pop-Tart and Ken knew there was no way it would charge a phone in an hour, but he brushed it off.

But the ad kept popping up everywhere and it got annoying. Ken figured someone must have said something about all the ridiculous claims the ad was making. When he looked around, though, only a few people were talking about it.

Ken realized that he had a tech background and an audience – he could debunk it himself. It was technology, he knew technology, and he could debunk it from that angle. The ad was also using video trickery to make it look better, and since he also had a video background, he could debunk it from that angle, too.

Initially, he wasn’t thinking about making a series debunking tech scams. He just wanted to do one video. But that one video got 1.8 million views. It wasn’t a difficult decision to keep going.

Ken wasn't interested in tech scams until a scam ad got annoying.

The Weirdest Tech Scams Ken Debunked

Ken has encountered some pretty weird tech in debunking tech scams. Sometimes the ads are the weirdest part. He’s currently working on a video about a product that claims to save gas in your car. The ads, though, show a person dumping Coca-Cola into the gas tank. He thinks that’s an absolutely bizarre way to advertise, even if it is clickbait.

Another one that he debunked was a UV filter. Supposedly, you could put it over your phone’s flashlight to convert the light to UV waves to sanitize your hands. Ken got his hands on one to analyze, and of course it doesn’t work. Real UV sanitizers exist, but a filter can’t turn your phone flashlight into one. And even if it did, UV rays are what give you sunburn – using it to sanitize your hands would burn your skin.

Warning Signs of Tech Scams

There are warning signs that indicate the product or advertisement you’re looking at might be a tech scam. These are a few of the signs that Ken looks at to identify scam products. If a product has any of these warning signs, you’ve probably found a tech scam.

Sign #1: Miracle Products

Many scam products share a similar backstory. The inventor or company founder was in the military or used to work for a tech company. He got sick of the practices of the corporate fat cats, so he left and created his own product. This is an attempt to get you to trust the product based on an emotional story of the little guy beating “the man,” and it’s a major red flag that this miracle product doesn’t work.

Anything that sets up a backstory of a guy leaving a big company or the military to do his own company, 99% of the time it’s fake.

Krazy Ken

Sign #2: Stock Footage

Most people probably wouldn’t notice this, but since Ken has a background in video production, he does. Many ads for tech scams don’t even use actual footage of the thing they’re claiming to film. Instead, they use stock footage that they bought from someone else. Ken likes to screenshot the video and do a reverse image search on iStock or Pond5 to find the clips they used.

Sign #3: Discount Countdown Timers

There actually are ethical ways to use countdown timers on websites. But websites selling tech scams will use them to create artificial urgency. The countdown timer tells you that the fantastic discount only has a limited time left so you need to buy now. In reality, the discount never expires. A countdown timer by itself doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve found a scam, but you’re probably looking at a cheaply-made product either way.

Sign #4: Suspicious Reviews

This is a very common tactic for tech scams. The website will have a review section that shows a “customer’s” name and picture, along with a five-star review and the date it was posted. Sometimes Ken will come back to the site later and find the same review with a different name, picture, and posted date. Another tactic is listing a review as posted a day ago, regardless of when it was actually posted. Some websites will try to look like they have an embedded Facebook feed with live Facebook reviews. In reality, it’s either coded to be a lookalike or just a screenshot.

So many times it’s just movie magic on a website to make it look like there are people leaving reviews, but they’re not.

Krazy Ken

Sign #5: Stolen Footage or Images

One tech scam, a fake phone charger that claimed to repair the battery as it charged, stole footage from two popular YouTubers for its ad. A mini air conditioner that Ken debunked stole footage from a documentary. (Ken thought that one was particularly stupid, as the large company that made the documentary has lots of expensive lawyers.) ProPods Max, an AirPods Max knock-off, stole photos from Apple’s website. The custom iPhones with Apple iBoards used replica boards (Ken found the replicas on eBay) but stole photos of the real iBoard from Apple’s website. A legitimate product doesn’t need to steal photos or videos from anyone.

A pretty website, pretty pictures, and maybe fake reviews on the website doesn’t always mean it’s good … most of the time, you get what you pay for.

Krazy Ken

Sign #6: Scarcity and Urgency

Scarcity is when they claim that the supply is limited or almost gone so you should buy now. Urgency is similar – for some reason (like an expiring discount), you should purchase right away. Both of these tactics can be used ethically, but they are also very common for tech scams. The scammers are trying to rush you so you don’t have time to check if this product is legitimate. If something or someone is telling you to hurry, that’s a sign you actually need to slow down. Confirm it’s not a tech scam before you buy.

It’s Not Just Sketchy Websites

Tech scams aren’t just limited to sketchy landing pages. Scam products are available all over the place – on manufacturers’ websites, on landing pages, on Amazon. Not even brick-and-mortar stores are safe: Ken debunked a non-functional mini air conditioner and later saw it for sale at Home Depot. For one product he was investigating, he needed to get another one. The page he originally bought it from was gone, but he found it on Amazon for an eighth of the price. Amazon especially is full of scams and cheap knock-offs. Watching out for the warning signs of a tech scam, even if the store is generally trustworthy.

Even if you trust the store, that doesn't mean there isn't a tech scam for sale.

Suspicious Advertising Doesn’t Always Mean it’s a Tech Scam

Not all of the products Ken investigates are tech scams. Some of them just have really terrible advertisements that make them look like scams. The MUAMA Ryoko device is one such case. The advertising claimed you could use it to get wifi anywhere. In reality, it was a hotspot device. It had a SIM card that it used to turn cell signal into wifi. In his episode about it, Ken proved that it worked and had decent speed, but the ads were extremely misleading.

Some products do what they claim, but aren’t the right solution for everybody. Some products are cheaply made but do technically work. Just because the ads have warning signs of a scam doesn’t mean it really is one. That’s why it’s important to look further into it.

There are different levels of my BS meter, as I like to call it. There are different levels of BS that happen with these scam products.

Krazy Ken

Upcoming Scam Tech Videos on Computer Clan

Ken already has a bunch of videos debunking tech scams on the Computer Clans channel. He’s also working on more. One product that he’s working on goes by many names and claims to save you gas. With record-high gas prices right now, it’s pretty topical. He has received a lot of requests to debunk a mosquito-killing device – it’s not really tech-related, but he might do it anyway because so many people have asked. He is also planning on covering fake flash drives that claim to be 8 terabytes but aren’t. That one will also cover how they trick you from a computer science perspective and how to test it once you plug it in. Finally, Ken has a friend who is an experienced drone pilot. He’s hoping to collaborate with him in order to do a detailed test and debunk of cheap drones, particularly one called Quad Air.

With all kinds of new technology comes all kinds of new tech scams. Learning how to spot them so you can avoid losing money to them is essential. Ken posts scam-debunking videos on the Computer Clan YouTube channel to help you spot fake products and avoid falling for a scam.

See more of Ken on the Computer Clan YouTube channel at youtube.com/computerclan. On social media, Ken is most active on Twitter @thecomputerclan. There is also a new Computer Clan website (designed by experts who know what they’re doing) that will be live soon at thecomputerclan.com.

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