National Trading Standards is warning consumers about a new scam targeting those looking for help with printer problems.
The warning comes after a rise in the number of cases seen by the National Trading Standards eCrime Team.
The ‘printer helpline scam’ differs from most scams as it sees consumers contacting the criminals directly, after seeing fake ‘helpline’ numbers in online adverts placed on search engines or social media.
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Cases seen by the National Trading Standards eCrime Team have involved those behind the ‘helplines’ gaining remote access to people’s computers – under the auspices of helping them to resolve their technical problems – only for them to use this to steal personal information including bank account details and infect computers with malware.
One particular group behind these scams – which claims to be affiliated with a wide range of technology brands and printer manufacturers – holds victims to ransom by taking control of their computers before demanding payment to return control.
Figures from Action Fraud, UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, reveal that cases such as computer service fraud, which encompasses scams such this, have risen by 47% since 2014, with a total of 32,719 cases being seen in 2016.
Mike Andrews, lead co-ordinator of the National Trading Standards eCrime Team said: “This printer helpline scam is particularly pernicious because it encourages victims to unknowingly contact the fraudsters of their own accord. 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.”
Similarly, Lord Toby Harris, chair of National Trading Standards offered a word of caution.
“I would urge people to be particularly vigilant about this scam. If you are seeking help for printer issues you should always use the official printer helpline details provided when you bought the product 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 at http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/report_fraud and to Citizens Advice on 03454 040506.”
- National Trading Standards is advising people to take the following steps to protect themselves from becoming a victim of this scam:
- When seeking technical support for your printer, make sure you use the contact details provided by the printer manufacturer. These can be found by visiting the manufacturer’s official website, listed on its product packaging and literature.
- Be suspicious of helplines asking to take remote control of your computer to fix printer problems.
- Make sure that your antivirus and online security software is kept up-to-date, to reduce the risk of unwanted pop-ups on-screen that may advertise fraudulent services.