Computer scammers strike across Lancashire

A COMPUTER scam accounts for almost a third of all complaints about cold calling to Lancashire County Council Trading Standards Service.

Officers are warning that fraudsters are trying to steal personal data by tricking PC-owners into giving them access to their computers.

More than 250 complaints were received from April 2011 to the start of this year about conmen posing as workers from software giant Microsoft who encourage people to download software to fix a non-existent problem with their home PC.

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But the software turns out to be malicious “spyware” which allows criminals access to their personal data. Those targeted by the scam could also be urged to buy software by giving the caller their credit cards details.

The criminals seem to focus their calls on a few postcodes at a time then move on, but complaints have been received from every district of Lancashire.

County Coun. Albert Atkinson said: “Our Trading Standards Service has received a number of calls about this scam which appears to be globally-run and has recently begun targeting Lancashire residents.

“The victim receives a call telling them their PC has reported an error message, has been hacked, or is running slowly, and is offered advice on how to fix the problem.

“They may be encouraged to hand over bank details to buy software, but can also be asked to switch on their PC and download software there and then which could give the scammer remote access to their computer.

“The scammers are quite aggressive and will attempt to intimidate potential victims by using highly technical language along with threats of dire consequences if they do not fix the supposed computer problem urgently.”

Unwary PC-owners could be handing access to their computer to criminals who could steal personal and financial information. They could also be conned into parting with hundreds of pounds for potentially damaging or non-existent software.

If you think you have been affected by a scam, contact Trading Standards via Consumer Direct on 08454 040506. Anyone with information on this or any other scam can report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.