Consumer: Hang up on computer hackers

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criminals have been harassing a Leeds woman in abid to trick her out of her bank details for a year.

Gillian Norfolk, from Pudsey, Leeds, receives up to five calls at home each day from conmen claiming to work for Microsoft Windows.

They know her full name and want her to switch on her computer so they can deal with an alleged ‘virus’ in her PC.

Ms Norfolk, who has anti-viral equipment installed on her computer, has been called by both men and women, who all have foreign accents.

Their calls register as ‘international’ on her home telephone – but as she has family abroad she cannot simply ignore them.

One of the men told her his name was Ricky Watson, and gave London telephone number 0208 144 9472, when prompted.

Now a spokeswoman for Microsoft has confirmed to Consumerwatch this is a scam, revealing that staff do not monitor customer computers for viruses, and never make unsolicited calls.

We gave the scammers a call on the ‘0208’ number.

A man, who gave his name as Anthony James, answered and claimed to work in the ‘Windows technical department’.

No such department exists.

When asked why they were calling Ms Norfolk, the brazen conman said: “Maam, we have technical reports that show when a computer has been used to access the internet and some sort of malicious files are getting through.

“They are corrupting different sites of the hard drive. If [Ms Norfolk] was receiving the call it was most likely to confirm this.

“We’d need her to be sat in front of her computer, then one of the technical members can confirm the reports.

“If it’s confirmed they will connect to the computer and work out which part is corrupting.”

But it is at this point the criminals would have full access to roam Ms Norfolk’s computer for personal information such as bank details, passwords and her home address.

We asked ‘Mr James’ if this was a scam. He said: “There are scams coming in where people call up and hack into computers.

“To make customers understand we are genuine we try to confirm the Microsoft licence number so they can match that with their own computer.”

We also asked if he was calling from London.

He said: “Our headquarters is in London, but we are based in Bangalore, India.”

Katie Stainer, of Microsoft, said: “We would like to remind users of Microsoft software that the company does not keep track of consumers that purchase their software and does not directly contact consumers for any reason whatsoever. Do not trust any caller claiming to be from Microsoft and needing access to your home PC.

“We do encourage people to keep safe when online and to always ensure the copy of Windows they are running is genuine and fully up to date.”

Shirley Clark, who lives in LS16, receives nuisance calls from firms trying to sell her diamonds to people trying to get her investing in carbon credit.

Ms Clark also receives calls from the Microsoft scammers.

She said: “They always say my computer’s picked a fault up. I was getting these calls even before I had a computer.”

Consumerwatch spoke to John Mitchison, manager of the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), to find out what consumers targeted by a telephone scam can do.

TPS is the UK’s official ‘opt out’ register for homeowners wanting to block unsolicited sales or marketing calls.

Once registered, it is then a legal requirement for all organisations – including charities, voluntary organisations and political parties - to make sure they do not call numbers listed on the register. The problem is, the jurisdiction only applies to the UK. And it is voluntary.

Mr Mitchison advised customers to hang up on any nuisance caller, not engage in conversation, and at a last resort try changing their phone number.

He said: “I hear about this kind of call almost every day, sometimes they’ll say they are from Microsoft, sometimes Dell and often claim they can see you have a virus and try to either get you to part with your money or download personal information.

“You could change your telephone number, the trouble is that numbers are recycled and you could just inherit new nuisance callers who once plagued the previous owner of the number.”

For more information about TPS call 0845 070 0707.