Every now and then I notice some odd rumour floating around on the internet about a certain ‘new’ type of crime that the police are apparently warning people about. They’re usually fairly daft, often involving forwarding emails to prevent hackers exploding your hard drive or re-posting warnings on Facebook about rogue gangs of con men roaming around Brownhills, and whenever I catch them I’m happy to step in and clarify that they are silly rumours and nothing more.
This said, occasionally – and I do mean very occasionally – there’ll be some truth behind the warnings. When there is you can expect to see a link back to our own website and some substance to the story better than ‘west midlands police say if u dont repost this msg on2 50 ppll in youre phonebook a chinese crime gang will be able 2 read youre thoughts and steal youre goldfish‘.
You may have heard of phone scams whereby people get a call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft. They usually go like this – the concerned ‘Microsoft employee’ will say to their victim that they think there’s a problem with their computer that needs to be fixed.
The victim is persuaded to allow their computer to be remotely accessed, a malicious piece of software is then installed and the software used to show the victim a list of fake infections supposedly eating away at their motherboard.
With the victim worried that their holiday photos are going to be lost, they agree to make a credit card payment to Microsoft for the problem to be solved. The average victim looses £500 this way and even if they refuse to give their credit card details, software is still nestled on their computer recording their private details and sending them off to the scammer.
We have had a couple of incidents of this type of scam taking place in the Walsall area recently, including one over towards Lichfield during which the target was my father. Thinking on his feet and always happy to slam the phone down on cold callers, he didn’t fall for it but unfortunately there are many people who may not react in the same way, especially when they are vulnerable and threatened by a devious fraudster.
For ourselves, prevention is definitely better than cure when it comes to scams such as these.
Investigating them can be very difficult, especially when at best enquiries are limited to a suspect phone number and a bank account, both of which can be hidden to prevent the police following leads to the criminal himself.
This isn’t to say that our Economic Crime Unit don’t have access to a range of secret squirrel type devices that can help, but slamming down the phone is the best method of defence.
Like the banks, computer companies are never going to phone you out of the blue asking for personal information. Be suspicious if they do and under no circumstances allow them access to your computer or worse, give out credit card details. Microsoft give the very sensible advice that you should regularly change your passwords, install a firewall and use antivirus software to scan your computer for malicious programs.
I’d also advise keeping a backup of your photos etc which will come in handy not only if you have computer problems but also should the PC itself be stolen.
Remember though, the best advice I can give is to do what Old Man Stanley did and slam down the receiver. It works rather well!