In the last year, there has been a rise in phone calls made to private homes from conmen that claim to be computer experts. Such criminals are using increasingly complex methods to achieve access to the victim’s personal details.
The fraudster may try to take payment for this service or to gain remote access to your computer to fix it. If they do gain access, they will install malware — malicious software that enables them to steal personal or financial information or perform unauthorised actions on the device.
The latest scam
The computer scam is the latest example of “vishing”, voice or telephone-based fraud — when criminals convince people to give financial details over the phone by impersonating police officers, bank staff or other authoritative figures.
The increase of vishing has in turn led to a sharp rise in identity fraud this year. ID fraud made up 76% of all bank card fraud in the first nine months of 2014, up from 62% in the same period last year, according to Cifas, the fraud prevention service and database.
Steve Hawker, a computer expert who was twice contacted by scammers, said: “They ask you to run a program on your computer, which to most people will look like there are indeed problems. Actually you are looking at perfectly normal services that run on every computer.
“I could tell the computer had no virus because I work in software, and that what I was seeing was normal, but to the uninitiated it can look very strange. We normally do not see the background stuff.”
Once you have given your card details, they will usually take a larger sum. One victim, Christabel Gordon, lost £450 when she thought she had paid £20 to a computer expert. It took her a year to get the money back from her bank.
Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and internet crime, said the number of reported bogus calls is set to double in a year. There were 18,738 reports of this scam to Action Fraud in the year to October, up from 11,987 the previous year.
Tony Blake, a fraud prevention officer at the police’s Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit, said thousands more cases were simply not being reported.
FFA UK has launched a campaign, Hang Up On Fraud, to raise awareness and alert potential victims. Blake said: “The fraudsters are increasingly targeting consumers directly over the phone.
“As the criminals involved in computer software service fraud tend to be based overseas, it is especially difficult for law enforcement agencies to investigate and to arrest the perpetrators. That is why public awareness campaigns are essential to help beat the criminals.
“Be very suspicious of any cold call requesting your personal information or pushing you to take urgent action. If you are at all suspicious just hang up the phone and report the call to your bank or to Action Fraud.”
Advice from the experts
Computer expert Hawker warned: “Never allow an unknown caller to sign into your computer.”
After stealing card details, fraudsters often sell them on to criminal gangs. Last month the Metropolitan police launched a new crime squad, called Falcon, which will target online financial fraud. The unit aims to “significantly increase the numbers of arrests and charges relating to fraud and cyber-crime”.
Always protect your personal data and be wary of others trying to access it. If you are unsure of the best way to secure your data do get in touch with us for some personalised advice. Remember, if something doesn’t seem right – it probably isn’t.