Fraudsters are impersonating an increasing number of companies including internet service providers and computer companies to try and gain access to people's computers, and ultimately their bank accounts.

A computer takeover scam has been doing the rounds for years now, where a scammer will call, claiming to be from Microsoft or a similarly well-known company, saying that your computer has been hit with a virus and that they can remove it for you remotely. When you let them take over your computer, they then try to glean as much personal information as possible in order to steal your identity, or threaten to erase the contents of the computer if you don’t give them money.

However, according to Financial Fraud Action (FFA) UK, scammers are branching out by impersonating other firms or organisations, and offering to help with a slow computer or internet connection, or even claiming your information has been hacked.

How the scam works

Once the victim has handed over remote control of their computer, the fraudster will tell the victim that they may be entitled to compensation, or put them through to a supervisor who will appear to make an offer of compensation.

The scammer will say that they are sending the money and ask the victim to log into their bank account to check that it has arrived.

But the fraudsters will put up a fake screen to make it appear that the money has arrived. Meanwhile they will be working away in the background to empty your bank account.

They may ask for a bank passcode to be sent by text or generated by a card reader, which they will claim is necessary in order to process the refund. In reality, they need this to set themselves up as a new payee from your bank account and take your money.

[Related story: Common online and email scams to beware of]

How to protect yourself

The FFA recommends following these steps to ensure you aren’t duped by this version of the scam:

  • be wary of any unsolicited approaches by phone offering a refund;
  • avoid letting someone you do not know have access to your computer, especially remotely;
  • do not long onto your bank account while someone else has control of your computer;
  • do not share one-time passcodes or card reader codes with anyone;
  • do not share your Pin or online banking password, even by tapping them into a telephone keypad.

Katy Worobec, director of FFA, said that this scam is another example of the cunning tricks fraudsters will use to get their hands on your money.

She added: “You should never let someone else have access to your computer remotely, especially if they have contacted you via an unsolicited phone call. If you are in doubt, then call the organisation back on a number you trust; if they are legitimate they will understand.”

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