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The eCrime Team provides a national resource to support all local authority areas in England and Wales, tackling the increasing threat to businesses and consumers in relation to internet scams.
The “printer helpline scam” differs from most scams as it requires consumers to contact the criminals directly using fake “helpline” numbers in online adverts in search engines results or social media.
According to the eCrime Team, the criminals behind the scam are gaining remote access to people’s computers by pretending to help them to resolve their technical problems.
Once victims have allowed access to their systems, the criminals are stealing personal information, including bank account details, and infecting computers with malware.
One particular criminal group, which claims to be affiliated with a wide range of technology brands and printer manufacturers, takes control of victims’ computers and demands payment to release them.
Figures from Action Fraud, UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime, reveal that cases such as computer service fraud, which includes scams such this, have risen by 47% since 2014.
“This printer helpline scam is particularly pernicious because it encourages victims to unknowingly contact the fraudsters of their own accord,” said Mike Andrews, lead co-ordinator of the NTS eCrime Team.
“While victims expect they will receive help with their printer problems, they have in fact been lured into a trap and find themselves at risking of losing money, important personal information and also have their computer security compromised.”
Read more about cyber crime
- There were 5.8 million incidents of cyber crime and fraud in the 12 months up to March 2016, affecting one in 10 people in England and Wales.
- The chief of the Metropolitan Police Service’s fraud squad Falcon admits the Met’s policing of online fraud and cyber crime has not been good enough in the past.
- Co-operation with business in the private sector is an increasingly important element in fighting crime, according to UK, US and EU law enforcement officers.
- The Metropolitan Police should appoint a senior officer to ensure the whole force is prepared to tackle online crime, says a London watchdog.
Toby Harris, chair of NTS, urged people to be particularly vigilant about this scam and to use official printer helpline details or consult the official website of the manufacturer for helpline details.
“If you have fallen victim to a scam or see suspicious activity online then please report it to the Action Fraud and to Citizens Advice on 03454 040506,” he said.
National Trading Standards is advising people be suspicious of helplines asking to take remote control of computers to fix printer problems.
The eCrime Team said organisations should ensure that their anti-virus and online security software is kept up-to-date to reduce the risk of unwanted pop-ups on-screen that may advertise fraudulent services.