Computer users are warned by police to be on their guard against a cold calling scam that could leave their bank details and PCs open to criminals.
At least two people contacted police in Shropshire on Thursday 14 July 2011, reporting they had been called by scammers pretending to be from computer software companies such as Microsoft or an internet service provider.
The callers claim there is a virus or other problem with the victim’s computer, asking them to turn it on before giving a series of instructions to allow them to ‘fix the problem’.
However, this allows the caller remote access, enabling them to look at your files, internet browsing history and even to download software to your PC that would let them connect to it again whenever your internet is connected.
Fortunately, the victims in both cases realised quickly that it was a scam and did not do as the callers asked, terminating the calls without allowing any access to their computers.
Tim Weaver, Shropshire Crime Reduction Manager for West Mercia Police, said: “The scam, which is not just confined to Shropshire, works by cold callers telling you your computer has a virus.
“They then ask you to log on to the internet and type in a web address, followed by various codes, which install software on your PC that allow them remote access.
“This means they can look at your web browsing history and your files and folders, all of which could contain personal information and bank details.
“They can also install whatever additional software they like onto your PC, such as spyware.
“Never, under any circumstances, do anything with your computer that a cold caller asks you to.
“Once they have access to your PC, they can download software to it that allows them access whenever the internet is connected.
“We are not aware of any software company or internet provider that would call you or even be able to tell from afar themselves if there was a fault or virus on your PC.”
Everyone should ensure that they have good anti-virus and anti-spyware software installed on PCs from a legitimate source and that updates for these are installed regularly.
Always installing security updates from Microsoft will also help protect your PC.
PC Weaver added that any cold caller should be treated with suspicion if they ask for any personal or bank details.
Never give any personal or bank details out over the phone, by email or by letter to any cold caller, whoever they might claim to be.
- Those ‘PC virus’ phone call scams: the unanswered questions (guardian.co.uk)
- Study reveals scale of fake tech support call scams (nakedsecurity.sophos.com)