CAMBRIDGESHIRE Trading Standards are warning people to beware after local people caught a cold by falling for a computer virus scam.
Officers re-issued the warning because of continuing complaints about the scammers who contact people offering telephone support to deal with viruses on home computers.
Last year the Police shut down 19 companies for scamming customers in this way, but Trading Standards Officers believe that copycat scams are still operating and the complaints received may be just the tip of the iceberg. Tracing those responsible for the con is difficult as many of the companies operate from call centres abroad.
County Council Cabinet Member for Enterprise, Councillor Mathew Shuter, said: “The police have had considerable success in shutting down this type of scam, but clearly the problem has not gone away and Trading Standards in Cambridgeshire are still receiving a considerable number of complaints about this con and we believe because the scam is so sophisticated there are many more people who have fallen victim – they just aren’t aware of it!”
The scammers telephone people out of the blue. In some cases they already know the person’s name and address, and falsely claim they are calling from ‘Microsoft’, ‘Windows’ or one of the other major software companies.
The caller claims the person’s computer has been infected by a harmful virus or is running slowly. They then persuade them to view some information online which they claim indicates a problem with the machine and request remote access to the machine so that they can get rid of the virus.
After claiming to have cured the problem, they then offer the user a ‘Microsoft preventative service contract’ or similar which they claim will allow them to monitor viruses on the computer on an ongoing basis at a cost of around £185 – those who sign up for the scam are asked to provide their details over the telephone.
Cllr Shuter said: “These people are not connected with Microsoft or any other software provider and they have no way of knowing if a computer has been infected by a virus or is running slowly. They only want to trick people into allowing access to their computer whenever they like and into giving up their confidential bank details.”
Trading Standards advice is for people to use appropriate anti-virus and defence software packages, and if they aren’t sure, contact an expert for advice. Furthermore, if they believe there is a problem with their computer, again, they should get in touch with an expert, where possible seeking recommendations on experts from friends or relatives.
Anyone who feels they may have fallen victim to the computer scammers or has been contacted by such a company can report it or seek advice from Consumer Direct on 0845-4040506.