UK computer takeover scam preys on data breach fears

A UK anti-fraud organisation has identified a series of scams hoping to take advantage of recent high-profile data breaches.

Financial Fraud Action has warned consumers of the telephone scam, in which criminals purport to be from major companies so that they can take over the victim’s computer remotely.

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The fraudsters often claim to be either an Internet service provider, bank or technology firm and offer to help with a slow Internet connection or to provide assistance following a data breach. They then claim that they can solve the issue by taking control of the victim’s computer, instructing them to visit a specific website or enter a command prompt.

The scammer will then offer the user compensation but ask them to log-in to their online banking to receive it. They are then shown a fake screen, demonstrating the refund has arrived, while money is secretly taken from their account. Alternative methods may see the criminals claim to have sent you too much money by mistake and ask you to wire them a partial refund.

The scam highlights the wider ramifications of data breaches, such as the recent TalkTalk scandal. They not only give fraudsters access to information that could assist them in their actions, they also help them prey on consumer concerns.

Katy Worobec, director of Financial Fraud Action UK, explained that in order to avoid becoming a victim of fraud, consumers should be wary of unsolicited approaches and never access sensitive information when someone else has control of their computer.

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“Fraudsters are cunning and will go to great lengths to steal your cash,” she said. “This scam is just another example of the tricks they will use. You should never let someone else have access to your computer remotely. If you are in doubt, then call the organisation back on a number you trust; if they are legitimate they will understand. Do not share your bank account details with anyone and make sure any computer you use to log onto your Internet banking is secure.”