Three people suspected of being involved in computer software service fraud have been arrested as part of an investigation led by Trading Standards.
Police and Trading Standards officers executed entry warrants at the homes of a 64-year-old man and a 34-year-old woman in Birmingham and a 35-year-old man in Swindon.
The suspects have been interviewed and released pending further investigation. A 65-year-old woman from Tamworth agreed to be interviewed by Trading Standards officers without the need for arrest. A further suspect remains at large.
The alleged scam involves victims being told on the phone or on a pop up ‘on screen’ message that they have problems with their computers. They are persuaded that the fictitious problem can be fixed for a fee and are usually tricked into giving remote access to their computers. This allows the fraudster to introduce viruses and malware permitting their personal data to be accessed.
Lord Toby Harris, Chair of National Trading Standards, said: “If someone you don’t know asks for remote access to your computer or other devices, it should set alarm bells ringing. If you think you have been targeted by a computer fraudster or know anyone who has been affected, report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.”
Jonathan Frost of the City of London Police’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau said:
“Computer software service fraud is an increasing problem with more than 20,000 instances reported to Action Fraud last year*. If you receive an unexpected call from anyone suggesting that there is a problem with your computer, then you should simply hang up. Criminals often claim that computers have been infected with malware, viruses, they may also offer you a refund in connection with your internet service or suggest that your bank account is being targeted by cybercriminals.
“If in doubt hang up and call the organisation in question using a number you have obtained via a reliable source. If you believe you have fallen victim to a fraud like this, please report it to Action Fraud either online or by phone on 0300 123 2040.”
Abrahim Bakhtiar, CELA Senior Attorney at Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit, said: “Criminals are always seeking new and increasingly clever ways to deceive people and steal their money. We’d like to reassure everyone that Microsoft will never cold call you out of the blue to offer tech support or send you pop ups on your computer asking you to call a number. If you do need help, then get in touch with us directly at https://support.microsoft.com/en-gb/contactus/.”
If you have been a victim of fraud or cybercrime, report it to Action Fraud at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.