FRAUDSTERS who trick people into giving them access to their home computers are targeting Huddersfield.
A Brighouse computer expert said one Huddersfield man had been tricked out of more than £700 after allowing the fraudsters to get access to his PC while another handed over enough money to pay for his laptop twice over.
Chris Cuthell, of Calderdale Computer Clinic, said the con had swept through Brighouse, Lightcliffe and Hipperholme a few months ago and now seemed to be hitting Huddersfield.
The tricksters phone households claiming to represent Microsoft and tell the victim that their computer has a serious virus which needs immediate attention.
They persuade the victim to visit a website which allows them to get remote access to the computer so they can fix the “problem”.
They install an “anti-virus” programme which lists huge numbers of infected files which the callers can “fix” provided the householder hands over credit card details there and then.
But in addition to charging for a non-existent service, the “anti-virus” software is itself a virus – allowing the caller to install programs on the computer designed to steal information like internet banking passwords and log-ins to FaceBook and eBay.
The information can then be used for financial fraud and identity theft.
Mr Cuthell said: “Sadly, because the owner of the machine has given full remote access to their computer, even the best internet security software in the world can’t fully protect the machine.
“If you allow the caller remote access to your computer, the consequences can range from the loss of all photographs and emails – usually they can be recovered – through to full-blown bank and credit card fraud.
“The computer will also need disinfecting and the malicious software removing.”
Mr Cuthell said: “Microsoft and their agents would never call a user to report the presence of malicious software. They simply can’t monitor the software on an individual machine to that level of detail.
“Even if they could, they have no way of being able to pinpoint any given machine’s location below the level of STD dialling code.
“The scammers might convey the impression that they know you have a PC at home, but they’re simply relying on the law of averages. If you call a household, there’s a better than 50% chance that they have at least one computer in the house.”
Mr Cuthell said the people running the scam were based overseas, putting them out reach of the British police or trading standards.
He said: “All the reports we’ve received confirm that these callers are very convincing and even more tenacious, calling as many as 15 times over a 48-hour period.
“By far the easiest way to prevent them calling again is to simply say that you have an Apple iMac. After that, they don’t seem to call again”.