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Scam latest

Scammers are targeting the public by telephone scam, says the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI).

The scam involves a caller claiming to be from BT Openreach, who states that there are issues with your internet connection and that they need to gain access to your computer to perform tests and fix it. The caller asks the target to download an application called Teamviewer, enabling a user to gain remote access to a computer. Giving access places the target in a hazardous situation, especially if the computer contains personal details, such as banking user names and passwords.

Meanwhile the media regulator Ofcom reports that the covid-19 pandemic lockdown has led to a record surge in internet usage in the UK. Other scams seek to take advantage of the pandemic on the doorstep, through email, and text messages.

Katherine Hart, a Lead Officer at CTSI, said: “The pandemic lockdown has led to record numbers of home workers, corresponding to a surge in internet use both in the UK and the wider world. I am concerned that this kind of scam could catch people off guard; indeed, I know of two individuals targeted by it this month.

“Since the first lockdown last March, fraud networks have used the pandemic as an opportunity to ruin people’s lives further, and I have warned the public about this at every step. We should not merely ignore it – we must report all instances of scams as this provides vital intelligence for the authorities.

“Do not be mistaken that scammers only use the BT brand – they hijack all kinds of internet provider brands to conceal their real intent. I ask the public to remain vigilant and take five minutes to think about this kind of communication. Doing this could mean the difference between keeping your assets safe or further trouble in what is an unprecedented period of difficulties.”

National Trading Standards has said that scam and nuisance phone calls have returned to levels seen before the first lockdown. In April 2020, when many call centres were suddenly closed as a result of restrictions imposed by governments, 10pc of calls received by trueCall devices were scam or nuisance calls. By October 2020, this figure had risen to 35pc, taking numbers of nuisance calls back up to levels last seen before the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the software firm Mimecast has found a phishing campaign that is impersonating the NHS and using vaccinations as bait to lure victims and obtain personal information. The email tells recipients that they have been selected for a vaccine based upon their family genetics and medical history, and then asks for personal information including name, date of birth, and credit card details; useful data for criminals.

Carl Wearn, head of e-crime at Mimecast, said: “The pandemic has led to organised crime having to find new ways of making money and this is a perfect example of this. By using something as emotive and important as vaccinations, these criminals hope to prey on the public’s eagerness to get vaccinated. This campaign looks to steal both personal and financial information, which can then be used in future attacks or even sold on the dark web. At Mimecast, we have seen a rise in campaigns like this one during the pandemic, with many adapting to fit news stories at the time.

The majority of online scams rely on some form of human error, as it is far easier to compromise a single user than a whole system. Threat actors know this well and are continuing to exploit the human factor by tailoring scams to target current events and the fears of their victims. Coronavirus is a perfect example of this tailoring and we have seen scams purporting to be from the WHO, the NHS, HMRC and even airlines offering refunds. Cybercriminals are clever and continuously adapting their tactics. Don’t click on suspicious links and never open unexpected email attachments. If you’re concerned about whether a vaccine information is legitimate, call your GP or take an independent route to check the website.”


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