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Consumers warned of computer takeover scam

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Members of the public are being warned of a new-style telephone scam in which fraudsters impersonate major companies and take over computers to steal money from online bank accounts.

Criminals are using technology to take control of victims’ computers from remote locations, after telephoning them and offering to help with a slow computer or internet connection, Financial Fraud Action UK (FFA UK) said.

There has been a recent increase in reports of this type of scam, according to the anti-fraud group.

To carry out this fraud, scammers are impersonating internet service providers, computer companies, banks, software firms and law enforcement.

They are also claiming to be calling as a result of recent high-profile data breaches.

The scammers claim there is a problem with the victim’s computer or internet service which is causing it to run slowly. They say they can fix it but need to access their computer to do so.

Victims are then asked either to visit a website or enter a command prompt on their computer, which gives the scammers control of the machine remotely.

The fraudster will take some time to ‘fix’ the problem, in some cases as long as 30 or 40 minutes.

During the call, the scammer will either tell the victim they are entitled to compensation or pretend to put them through to a supervisor, who will make the offer. The scammer will say they are sending the money and will ask the victim to log into their bank account to check it has arrived.

But the scammers will still have access to the computer and will put up a fake screen which makes it appear the money has arrived.

Working in the background, they will take money from the victim’s bank account. Alternatively, the scammers may transfer money between accounts to make it look like payment has been made.

The fraudster may also ask for a bank passcode sent by text message or generated by a card reader, claiming that this is required to process the refund. But this code will actually enable them to set up a new payee and take funds from the victim’s account.

Katy Worobec, director of Financial Fraud Action UK, said: “Fraudsters are cunning and will go to great lengths to steal your cash. This scam is just another example of the tricks they will use.

“You should never let someone else have access to your computer remotely, especially if they have contacted you via an unsolicited phone call. If you are in doubt, then call the organisation back on a number you trust; if they are legitimate they will understand.

“Do not share your bank account details with anyone and make sure any computer you use to log onto your internet banking is secure.”

In a previous scam, fraudsters used a similar approach to gain access to people’s computers under the guise of carrying out repairs, then demanding money as payment.

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