By Anna Mashman - 18th December 2016 4:30pm
The vast majority of us use internet search engines. Indeed, the phrase "to Google it" is now firmly embedded in contemporary vernacular when it comes to searching for information about more-or-less anything. The days of wading through a hardback encyclopaedia are long gone! But some crooks have seized upon the internet search vehicle as a means of defrauding us, by creating false websites that purport to offer legitimate paid-for services, but are not what they seem. Even some looky-likey UK Government websites have been created to catch out the unwary. Here, local resident Anna Mashman offers us some personal experiences.
Last week I was caught in a very plausible scam regarding my Epson printer.
I later learned that Epson had published a note on Facebook on 26th August warning customers to avoid becoming a victim of fraudsters pretending to be the support team for large electronic companies.
I fell into the trap when I Googled to find Epson's number. The first name to come up appeared to be a perfectly genuine Epson.co.uk/support link. These people offered a package of repair, 5 years' security and 5 years' free technical support. They required access to the computer to do all this.
At the end of the supposed repair I was asked for my bank details and a cheque number to "assist the billing department".
The bill was £300 for the 2½ hours that had been spent working on the computer.
Thankfully, I did not part with any money or personal details, but the inconvenience has been considerable, requiring me to use another computer to change financial passwords and block or cancel credit cards. I also put a block on my phone line of the 0800 numbers that have been reported to various authorities, particularly Action Fraud. I also felt it important to advise family and friends, etc...
In my case the fraudsters removed all the security on my computer. When the engineer who built the computer came to clean it, he could find no evidence of the virus I had been told had corrupted the computer. However, the computer was running very slowly as a result of a number of unnecessary items that had been put on it. At one point it ceased to work at all.
Before I blocked the phone numbers that the fraudsters used, I received a call to "verify the work done" and since I had not answered, I was asked to call back. Had I done so and reported the slowness of the computer it would have given them an opportunity to gain access to it again.
I am advising everyone to be very wary of the first address on a Googled list and avoid 0800 numbers.
My ISP advises typing a suspect number into Google to see what results.
The most important point is to contact ActionFraud if you have been, or might have been, caught in a scam.