National survey reveals East of England as UK phone scamming hotspot

Research for Microsoft’s Spot the Scammers campaign reveals number of people targeted by phone scam in East England is highest in UK

The East of England has been identified as the UK phone scamming hotspot, as Microsoft reveals that over 40% of people surveyed in the area have been targeted by a computer phone scam.

The figure for the region is almost 7% higher than the national average, which stands at just under 35%. Almost 42% of those asked in the East of England have been targeted, or know someone who has been targeted, by some form of phone scam in the last month alone.

In response to these findings, Microsoft has launched the Spot the Scammers campaign to raise awareness of the prevalence of the computer security phone scam and to provide a list of simple steps people can take to avoid falling victim to it.

The computer security phone scam typically involves a call from someone claiming to be a reputable technology firm like Microsoft. The caller will use this name to gain the trust of the victim, offering to help them solve bogus computer issues or remove viruses. In reality, their intention is to trick the recipient into giving out personal information or bank details, or to install malicious software on their computer.

Research conducted in 2010 found that victims in the UK lost on average £745 as a result of the scam.

Stuart Aston, Chief Security Advisor at Microsoft, highlighted the dangers of the scam:

“Essentially, this scam is a confidence trick conducted by often quite sophisticated criminals, who are adept at gaining their victims’ trust by using a name like Microsoft, adopting industry jargon to make them sound professional and using apparently personal information to appear legitimate.

We’ve launched the Spot the Scammers campaign to raise awareness that the scam exists – and ultimately that is the best way of ensuring people don’t fall victim to it. Just as you wouldn’t hand over your credit card to any stranger who knocks on your door, you should always be wary of unsolicited callers asking you for personal information or bank details.”

Stephen Proffitt, Head of Action Fraud, backed the campaign: “In the six months from August 2012 to January 2013, Action Fraud received 5,434 reports of computer software service fraud.

“This is an increasingly common fraud where fraudsters cold call every number in the phone book and convince victims their computer has a problem before charging them for apparently fixing it.

“Software and anti-virus companies do not cold call customers, so if anyone calls claiming to be from such an organisation and offers to fix your computer, tell them you will seek advice locally and end the call. If you think you have been a victim of fraud report this to Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by phoning the contact centre on 0300-232040.”

Microsoft has produced the following top tips to help people avoid being scammed:

- Always be suspicious of unsolicited calls or emails from people offering help with a security problem, or any other problem with your computer. Microsoft will never call you in this way or ask for money related to fixing a computer problem.

- Do not go to a website, install software or follow any other instruction from someone who calls you out of the blue

- Take the caller’s information down and pass it on to your local authorities or to Action Fraud

If you have received a call and think you may have been a victim of a phone scam already, you are advised to:

· Change your computer’s password, change the password on your main email account, and change the password for any financial accounts, especially your bank and credit card

· Use free software like Microsoft Security Essentials to find out if you have rogue software installed on your computer

· Contact your bank and credit card companies

· You can also find more guidance and information available at http://www.microsoft.com/security or http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/