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Northern Ireland Police Issue Second Warning of Broadband Scams

Thursday, July 12th, 2018 (8:44 am) - Score 1,842
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The Police Service of Northern Ireland has this week issued a second warning about UK broadband customers being scammed after £78,000 was stolen from 5 people by fake ISP support agents over the past month. But there’s now a worrying new “compensation” twist to the fraud.

People affected by the fraud are typically contacted via telephone by somebody claiming to be a support agent for their internet provider. At this point the victim is told that there is a problem with their broadband connection and in order to fix it the fake agent will need to gain access to your computer, which is usually done by encouraging the victim to install a remote desktop client (e.g. Teamviewer or any number of similar Virtual Private Network style apps).

Sadly scams like this have been going on for years and some ISPs, such as TalkTalk, have been worse hit than others. This due in part to past data breaches that gave scammers (mostly based in India) access to enough legitimate customer data as to make their calls seem very convincing. In response TalkTalk banned a number of popular remote desktop clients from their network, although users can get those bans removed.

The PSNI, which put out a similar warning in May 2018 after one victim was defrauded of almost £50,000, notes that there’s now a clever twist in the fake ISP support agent scam. Fraudsters will call their victims and claim to offer you compensation for slow broadband speeds, with figures of £250 or similar being thrown around.

The victim then hands over their account details and the fraudsters make it look like they’ve transferred far too much money (e.g. £5,250) into your account, although they haven’t and the transfer isn’t yet approved. At this point the fraudster calls back in a panic and encourages the victim to refund their overpayment and of course in doing so they end up sending real money to criminals.

On top of that the criminals may claim that the transfer has failed, possibly multiple times, and ask their victim to try again (this is how they get tens of thousands). The development is timely because Ofcom will introduce a new system of Automatic Compensation from early 2019, but in the above case it’s merely a criminal trick.

Simon Walls, PSNI Superintendent, said:

“The scammers have contacted their intended victims by telephone warning that their online bank accounts had been hacked or there is a problem with their wireless router or broadband. Typically the victim then gives the scammer remote access to their computer to fix the issue.

Once the scammer is in to the computer and personal details are given by the victim on line bank accounts can be accessed and significant amounts of money lost, money you may well never get back. Always be wary of any individual that cold calls you. Don’t allow any cold caller remote access to your computer. Be especially suspicious of anyone who asks for personal details, money, banking or credit card information via the telephone.

If you are at all suspicious about a call that you receive, hang up and phone the organisation that the person is purporting to represent to check their authenticity. Ideally make the call from another telephone so you can be sure the original caller has not remained on the line. Never be pressured into a transaction over the phone.

Guarding your personal and banking details is essential. Never disclose them to any unauthorised person or allow anyone access to them via your computer.”

Generally real customer support agents won’t phone you up and ask that you provide your full password (some may however ask for a few digits of it), bank details, request to send money through services such as MoneyGram or Western Union and they will also not use your ISP account number to prove a call is genuine.

However if you do get a call like those above then we’d recommend hanging up the phone, waiting a few minutes (some networks may not immediately disconnect the remote caller) and after that call your ISP on an official number in order to check. Alternatively you can report the call to Action Fraud via their website www.actionfraud.police.uk or by phoning 0300 123 2040, or call police on the non-emergency number 101.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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3 Responses
  1. tonyp

    Not restricted to Northern Ireland! Today two recorded calls (which have frightened my partner) with different numbers received on landline. Googling the numbers point to ‘Passion Flowers’ with another entry for Rajashstan in both cases. I have TPS on this line. Since there are no entries in the usual fraud/scam call boards, there is plainly a fast moving number change to defeat interception by network providers. This is a very simple thing to do with PBX software such as Asterisk or Freeswitch.

  2. Jensen

    How much do you know about a scammer who has stolen millions of euros and is still doing his own? Philippe Ballesio is his name, fraud in many ways but the most common ways is with fraudulent companies and companies. Do not forget that name, maybe like that, avoid a scam.

  3. Ian Mendoza

    I think this phone scam problem has became one of the biggest problem in the world. Since years ago, almost everyday I could read people complaining online, at sites like http://whycall.me and another similar sites. We should always be on extra guard, and keep informing family about these scams.

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