Beware of online computer store

Dozens of soldiers in the Advanced Individual Training (AIT) program at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas appear to have been targeted by an online computer store called Millennium Computers that lured them with an offer to purchase the latest laptops for as low as $148 a month, but charged them twice as much as they cost at most retail stores.  BBB wants to warn all servicemen and women to be cautious about responding to any business offer before thoroughly investigating it.

 

“Our military looks out for our nation and BBB wants to look out for them by equipping soldiers and their families with the knowledge and skills they need to be savvy consumers,” says Carrie A. Hurt, President and CEO of BBB serving Central, Coastal and Southwest Texas.  “We especially want to encourage members of the military to carefully evaluate any offer to purchase big-ticket items like computers, because offers like this one cause us concern.”

 

Melissa Pointer of Little Rock, Arkansas says her son Anthony, who was recently stationed at Fort Sam Houston, was shocked when he received a bill totaling $3,003.71 for a laptop he purchased from Millennium Computers.  Most laptops range in price from $500 to $1200.  Anthony told his mother he and a large group of fellow soldiers from Fort Sam Houston were approached by representatives of the company, who had three booths set up at the Rivercenter Mall, with an offer to purchase laptops from Millennium Computers for $148 a month.  Most of them decided to take advantage of the offer and set up allotments, a system where a designated amount of money is automatically distributed from their military pay, to cover the purchase.

 

The company also advertises in The Military Times, The Navy Compass and other military newspapers and publications.  The company’s website at http://www.millenniumcomputersonline.com/ claims to offer the latest laptop models, but doesn’t list prices for them.  The website also does not list a physical address for the company, but does ask for sensitive personal information such as Social Security numbers. 

Millennium Computer’s website claims they have locations in Texas, California, Illinois, Mississippi and Florida, but does not list any physical addresses or contact information other than a toll-free number and fax number.  The paperwork Anthony received from the company lists an address at 16585 State Highway 13, Suite H, Reeds Spring, Missouri 65737.  BBB serving Southwest Missouri has a report on a company at that address called Platinum Millennium Computers.  The company has a C+ rating, with 5 complaints.  BBB has requested basic information from the company but has not received a response.  To view BBB's report on Platinum Millennium Computers, click
here.  

 

Other paperwork for the laptop was received from a separate finance company called Oak Rock Financial based in Bohemia, New York.  BBB does not currently have any information on that company.

 

Because of competitive prices, huge selections, immediate availability, and reputable reliability, millions of consumers are now buying computers by mail. To ensure your transaction goes smoothly, the Better Business Bureau suggests you do some preliminary research on the type of equipment that would satisfy your needs and also consider the following points before buying a computer by mail.

 

Contact the Better Business Bureau where the company is located to get a reliability report.

Know what the system's specifications are. How much memory does the system have and what is the size of the hard drive. It's important to know whether the system can be upgraded. You may want to expand your capabilities later on. Ask whether there is room to add another hard drive, tape drive or CD-ROM.

 

Look for both manufacturer and vendor warranties on the products you are considering, and read them carefully before you decide to buy. Also, if your method of payment is by credit card, check with your credit card company to see if they will extend the warranty since repairs may be needed after the manufacturer's warranty lapses.

 

Before you order, ask if there is a "no-return" policy or a time limit on returns if the system does not meet your needs. Most companies allow 30 days to receive a full refund. Also, ask about the company's replacement policy. Usually when an item is not in stock, vendors may replace it with another brand stating in their solicitation that they "reserve the right to substitute an equivalent item." Be sure that the return policy allows you to return the system if you are unhappy with the substitution.

 

If the company offers on-site service, find out who is eligible. Some companies may advertise on-site service; however, it may not be offered to everyone, or at every location. Also find out what kind of technical support is available. Many mail order vendors have 24-hour toll-free support hotlines which can be valuable.

 

If you have problems with an order, first contact the company. Communicate, whenever possible, in writing. Be sure to keep a record of your order and correspondence and a log of any phone conversations. If you're not satisfied with their response, you can contact your local Better Business Bureau where the company is located or your local consumer protection office.  For more consumer tips, please visit www.bbb.org

 

Article courtesy of BBB of Central, Coastal and Southwest Texas.