Computer Fraud Calls on the Increase

Article written by Laura Jones


COMPUTER users in Oxfordshire are being targeted by conmen who are trying to dupe them out of money for unnecessary work.

Oxfordshire County Council’s trading standards department said the fraud was the most reported of any Internet-related crime they dealt with.

Bogus callers contact their victims by phone, claiming that there are faults on their computers, which need to be fixed, and then gain remote access to the machine.

The callers then show them ordinary error messages which do not damage computers and clear them, saying that they have “fixed” the problem and try to charge £80 for their services.

Trading standards spokesman Kate Davies said: “I would say computer-related viruses are the biggest area of scam reporting that we have been seeing over several months.”

Oxford computer specialist Steve Preston said: “It’s a telephone call and the caller says they are phoning from a computer firm and that there is an error or a virus on their computer.

“They say that if the person gives them remote access they can fix it, then they show error messages on their screen.”

To an untrained eye these error messages may look convincing, but Mr Preston said it was normal for a computer to have such messages.

“For example, a desktop computer that doesn’t have wireless will generate an error message to say it can’t find a wireless network, but that doesn’t mean there’s a problem with that computer – there’s nothing wrong with it.

“But they clear them out by selecting and deleting and charge the person £80 and say they’ve fixed it.”

Mr Preston said two customers had reported calls to Thames Valley Police, and others had told him of similar experiences.

A police spokesman said the two incidents passed to them were not being investigated as crimes, because money was not handed over. The information was handed on to trading standards and the force intelligence unit.

Ms Davies said: “If you do any online banking or keep anything on your computer with banking details, then you should contact your bank and ask to speak to their fraud department and ask them what to do for the best.

“Make it clear that that the debit details you gave were for a single transaction and ask them if it is possible to claw the money back.”

Computers should also be checked to make sure viruses hadn’t been installed by the scammers, she added.

Anyone who thinks they have been a target should call to trading standards on 0845 051 0845.

Mr Preston added: “In the past six weeks I’ve been receiving an average of two calls per day about this, which suggests these charlatans are targeting Oxfordshire.”