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Cold calling and internet fraud – if in doubt, keep them out!

Dyfed Powys Police is working in partnership with other agencies and our community safety partnerships to tackle the rising problem of cold calling and internet fraud. We have seen an increase of over 100% in the reported number of these types of offences throughout the force area in 2011-12, and it is estimated that approximately 40% of victims will have lost money. 

The internet is a big part of everyday life for many of us – young, old and everyone in between have embraced the technology. It has revolutionised how we obtain many services and information without having to leave our homes – but it has also made it easier for criminals to access us as individuals and our personal details. So we all need to ensure we take some basic measures to protect ourselves and our families from becoming victims of internet crime.

What to look out for and advice

Internet fraud can be in many guises, but always stay alert to ‘cold callers’. Callers could claim that there is a problem with your computer/internet or that you’ve won a significant amount of money – but if you weren’t expecting the call never enter into conversation with them, provide them with any personal details or send them any money.  Never log onto your computer as a result of a cold call claiming your computer has a virus or viruses – again do not engage in dialogue on such a call. 

Fraudsters may try to communicate with you through emails or ‘pop ups’ on your screens. You could receive suspicious messages alleging to be from a police force or other law enforcement organisation claiming your computer has visited illegal content and a fine is payable to release it – do not send any money or provide any payment card details. This is a virus. Get the virus removed by qualified IT technicians who will release your PC. If you have been infected by this virus, your computer security is inadequate. Make sure your internet security is updated regularly to prevent viruses like this – but remember anti virus protection alone isn’t enough. It’s a good idea to research internet security products in reputable computer stores and read reviews on the products in magazines and online.  

Superintendent Aled Davies said, “We have been aware of cold callers and internet fraud for many years now and have been issuing warnings and advice to our residents – but the increase we’ve seen in reports over the past year is significant. We are therefore working with other agencies that specialise in this field in order to tackle this and prevent people in our communities becoming victims. We have always advised ‘if in doubt, keep them out’ in relation to cold callers at your door – and exactly the same principle applies here. Don’t give anyone access to your details or your computer if you weren’t expecting them.”  

A victim from the New Quay area of Ceredigion said, “I have first hand experience of this type of scam. I received a phone call out of the blue one day informing me there was a problem with my computer and I would need to give them access to the computer and pay a fee in order to rectify the problem. I was very fortunate that my daughter happened to be here with me at the time – and she advised me not to take any action in relation to it over the phone. The man on the phone sounded so convincing, and if it hadn’t been for my daughter’s intervention I would have carried out their instructions. As it was, I still had to pay for a full computer health check in a reputable computer store but I could have lost a lot more money. The computer and the internet is a very valuable device in our household. I know not to engage with them at all now, and I’ll be on my guard in future.”

Jamey Johnson, Head of Action Fraud stated, “There are a number of computer software service frauds to look out for. One method involves bogus ‘Tech Support’ phone calls, e.g. someone from Microsoft or Apple contacting you and telling you there is a problem with your device, and another involves fraudsters asking for credit card information to ‘validate your software’. Fraudsters often use the names of well-known companies to commit their crime, as it makes their communication with you seem more legitimate. It is important to treat all unsolicited phone calls with scepticism and don’t give out any personal information. Computer firms do not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer. Fraudsters make these phone calls to try to steal from you and damage your computer with malware or other viruses."

According to Stuart Aston, Chief Security Advisor, Microsoft UK, “Microsoft does not keep track of consumers that purchase its software and does 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. We do encourage people to keep safe when online and to always ensure the copy of Windows they are running is genuine and fully up to date. We encourage all PC users to visit http://update.microsoft.com to keep their PC up to date with security updates and always observe good internet security practice.  To learn more, please visit http://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/security/default.aspx.”

Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online added, “The internet is a vital resource for many people. Yet it’s important to be vigilant and to be aware of the risks involved with putting your personal details online, to ensure that these don’t end up in the wrong hands. Ultimately, the best way to protect yourself against online fraud is to take responsibility for your own security. At Get Safe Online, we are committed to providing advice to help people use the internet confidently and securely. Armed with the right knowledge, we can all continue to enjoy using the internet safely.”  

A UKASH spokesperson explained, ”The Ukash product is not designed for person to person payments; it should only be used for making payments online at Participating Ukash Merchants. So it should never be used for payment for items advertised on sites like Gumtree or eBay.

"No part of the voucher code should ever be given over the telephone to anyone, however convincing their proposal may be, for example getting you a loan or a refund of bank charges or selling your timeshare. Ukash works just like cash. Giving your Ukash voucher code to someone you don't know, or a merchant that is not approved by Ukash, puts you at risk of losing your money. The best way to protect yourself from being a fraud victim is to be aware of scams and guard your Ukash voucher like cash! Transactions cannot be reversed, so only use the voucher code to pay online at Participating Ukash merchants.”

Spread the word - tell your friends and family and ensure they do not become victims of online fraud.

Please click on the downloads on the right to hear Microsofts advice and to look at further advice from Ukash and Get Safe Online

Further information and guidance on current scams is also available from action Fraud on 0300 1232040 or visit www.actionfraud.police.uk