SCAMMERS are taking control of people’s computers and demanding payments of hundreds of pounds to release them again, consumers are being warned.
Trading Standards officers say tens of thousands of users are falling victim to the con, which begin when they ask for help with a printer error.
The fraudsters claim to offer ‘printer helplines’, which are actually fake, via online adverts placed high on search engines or social media.
Users then allow scammers remote access to their computers, allowing them to steal information such as bank account details or demand money to hand back control.
They appear credible by claiming to have links with well-known computer and printer brands. In one case, they tried to charge a victim £700. Another user was told that their online identity had been corrupted and all their passwords had been stolen. The ‘fee’ to correct it was £200.
Mike Andrews, lead co-ordinator of the National Trading Standards eCrime team, said the scam was particularly dangerous because it encouraged victims to unknowingly contact the fraudsters of their own accord.
He said: “While victims expect they will receive help with their printer problems, they have in fact been lured into a trap, and find themselves at risk of losing money or important personal information and also have their computer security compromised.
“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.”
In 2016 there were more than 32,000 such cases of computer service fraud – a 47 per cent rise since 2014.
– If seeking technical support for your printer, visit the manufacturer’s website to get the official contact details
– Be suspicious of helplines asking to take control of your computer to fix a printer problem
– Keep anti-virus software up to date, to stop pop-ups from bogus services.
Visit www.actionfraud.police.uk or call 0300 123 2040 to report cases of fraud.