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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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Cumbria computer firm warns over scam virus calls

Computer owners are being warned about cold callers who claim their computer is infected with a virus.

Paul Gordon photo
Paul Gordon

The caller then offers to fix the problem, charging up to £170.

Paul Gordon, who runs At Home PC in Port Road, Carlisle, has been contacted by 30 concerned clients who have received unsolicited phone calls from call centres in India.

He says that, in many cases, the computer is not infected.

And in any case the anti-virus software offered is available free from other sources.

Mr Gordon said: “Some have gone through with it and paid. I’m concerned people are being ripped off.”

The caller addresses the person by name and says he understands they have registered an error report with Microsoft – something almost all computer users have done at some time.

The caller gets them to press a sequence of keys, which throw up innocuous error messages that the caller claims shows their computer is infected with a virus.

The caller then offers to take control of their computer to fix the problem and download anti-virus software.

Gareth Ellis, who trades as PC Fixer in Carlisle and north Cumbria, describes it as a scam.

He said: “The callers can be quite intimidating. They try to frighten the person answering the phone. They are very persistent.”

Richard Haugh, 76, of Thursby, paid £35 after receiving such a call – then regretted it.

He said: “My computer had been running slowly and I got the impression from the man who called that Microsoft had been on to them about the problem.

“He did these checks and was saying, ‘Oh my God, you’re in trouble’. He said my computer could crash at any time and I could lose everything on it.”

Mr Haugh is worried the caller may have downloaded more than anti-virus software and could have access to personal information on his computer.

Mr Gordon has found ‘key-logging’ programmes on two computers that received downloads.

These can pass on details of passwords and user names for internet banking and other sensitive services.

The News & Star contacted Comantra, one of the India-based organisations cold calling in Cumbria.

Manager Roger Smith said the firm’s sales leads came from a research team, not Microsoft, and that his staff never claimed to represent Microsoft.

He accepted that the software Comantra offers is available free on the internet.

But he added: “We provide a service. People pay for the service, not the software.”

Cumbria Trading Standards is aware of the calls.

A spokesman said: “The advice we would give to consumers is not to give out personal information when somebody just phones you up.

“Only deal with people you trust. Reputable businesses have strict procedures for how they contact you. They don’t just ring you up out of the blue.”

The software giant Microsoft is also urging customers to be wary.

Cliff Evans, security, identity and management lead – Microsoft UK, said: “We are aware of scams involving people claiming to be from Microsoft and needing remote access to consumers’ PCs.

“We do not directly contact consumers for any reason whatsoever. Do not trust any caller claiming to be from Microsoft and needing access to your home PC.”

Microsoft offers free downloads to guard against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. Go to www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/

To report what you believe is a scam, contact Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06 or www.consumerdirect.gov.uk

Have your say

I recieved an international call on my phone from an unknown number. The call was from an asian, possibly indian call centre.

The Conversation went along these lines(i have slightly paraphrased parts):
Me: Hello
Them:
Me: Hello
Them: Hello? My name is .. and I am calling from MSIT Information Institute. I am calling because you have a virus on you machine and it is my purpose to help you remove the virus.
Me: erm...ok
Them: Do you use a computer?
Me: No (a lie)
Them: It is my belief that your computer has a virus, can you please go to your computer?
Me: Which computer?
Them: The one running Microsoft Windows.
Me: Erm, Ok, your going to need to be more specific. Do you mean windows XP, Vista, 7 etc
Them: Oh, XP. XP definetly XP.
Me: I don't have a Windows XP machine.
Them: What operating system do you use on your PC, can you go sit in front of it.
Me: I never said I had a PC.
Them: You answered yes at the begining. Why would you lie? Why would you waste my time?
Me: I actually said no, you just carried on regardless.
.....Phone dead, end of conversation lasted about 2 minutes.

I was curious about what they were trying to do, but at the same time, I don't want to divulge any information to them. Just simply aknowledging that you have a pc could be the type of information that could be added to the database they already have that I would assume you are already a part of if you get that call.

I am registered with tps for what it is worth. Its obvious that they ignore that list.

Posted by Barry on 6 December 2010 at 17:53

There is another one doing the rounds - again, an Indian call centre, telling you that they are from your bank and that you've paid too much interest on a loan. This happened to a friend and they asked her date of birth but no account details which is weird. There have been 2 or 3 calls since along the same lines. Obviously she told her bank and the police but does anyone know what is going on here as it's unnerving her.

Posted by Maire on 22 September 2010 at 22:17

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