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Computing Which? says a fifth of members have fallen victim to internet scams

In a survey of 1,450 members, the Consumers Association magazine found that 22% said they believe they have fallen victim to some form of internet scam. In addition, says the association, despite several high profile stories about cold calling support scams, 47% of people still have not heard of them, while 37% of those asked said they would open an email from an address they didn't recognise.

One victim paid £315.00 for lifetime support after the scammers cold called him, but – unsurprisingly – reports hat he has not been able to contact the company since paying the money.

This type of scam, says the association, has been growing in popularity, based on the availability of cheap phone calls and labor in countries such as India. Fake support operators, it asserts, only need to convert one bogus lead a week to make a profit.

“Our survey reveals 8% of those surveyed have, like [the member] fallen for the cold-calling scam. Fraudsters make cold calls informing the householder that their computer has a security issue or virus infection, and offer a free security check, often claiming to be working for Microsoft. If the victim believes they have a problem, the scammers convince them to grant access to the computer via a remote access tool”, says the latest issue of Computing Which?
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“The scammer then installs malware or shows the end user a list of fake infections. The victim naturally wants to remove these, which is when the scammers solicit their card details. Consumers have been told if they don’t have the work done the computer is going to crash and they’re going to lose all their data”, the November issue added.

The magazine quotes Stephen Dibble, a team leader with Luton's trading standards operation, as saying that he has heard of consumers that have been asked for cash and when they said no they were told: “If you don’t pay we won’t release your computer and you won’t be able to use it again”.

The companies being investigated by Luton Trading Standards are seemingly in its area but the scam appears to  be countrywide, notes Computing Which?, which quotes Dibble as saying that there only a few scam firms using multiple names, with the majority being based – and run – from outside of the UK, despite using what appear to be `local' UK phone numbers.

The Consumer's Association advises all computer users to close down any unsolicited anti-virus notifications using the Windows task manager, and to be suspicious of unsolicited calls related to a security problem, even if they claim to represent a respected company

People should also never respond to requests to confirm your log-in details, whether on social media or banking emails and never download security software from pop-ups, banner adverts or unofficial websites, even if you are being alerted that your machine is not safe.

“If you’ve given your credit card information to the scammers, call your credit card company to report the issue and place a hold on the card”, the association advises, adding that users should also report fraud attempts to Action Fraud and keep all software – especially Windows, browsers and anti-virus software - up to date.

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