/ Technology

Why it’s time to cut off the technical support scammers

Someone you don’t know phones up and tells you that there’s something wrong with your computer. What do you do? Hang up, or give them remote access to your PC and hand over your money?

We’re still hearing from people on a weekly basis who’ve been cold-called by so called technical support companies.

Here’s how the scam works.

Someone rings you and says you have errors on your computer. They then remotely access your PC and show you what appear to be error messages – they are, in fact, an innocent log file. They offer to fix your computer and then sign you up to a technical support package – for a fee.

Scammers using new techniques to defraud

Sadly, far too many are still falling for these calls and are paying for ongoing technical support that they don’t need. Moreover, it seems that – like a computer virus – the scam is beginning to mutate.

Which? Computing heard from a reader, Janet Lawrence, who had signed up to a support package with an India-based company; Online PC Care. A year later the company called again saying that it had ‘accidentally’ withdrawn too much money from her account and wished to refund the difference.

However, in order to pay Janet back, the company said it needed a scan of her passport. Janet sent them the scan, but later discovered that her online bank account was frozen and, on further investigation, that Online PC Care had taken over £2,400 from her account.

What can you do if you’ve been caught out?

Rather than take the fraud lying down Janet reported it to her local police force, Action Fraud (the UK’s national fraud reporting centre) and to her bank; everyone who should have be informed in this case.

Janet did well to follow this up, although, as Richard Parris pointed out in his Conversation about online fraud, it isn’t always obvious where to report scams such as these.

Despite letting the police and her bank know Janet’s had a hard time reclaiming her lost funds. Action Fraud gave her a Crime reference number – clearly acknowledging that a crime had taken place. But, while Barclays initially repaid her money, it later wrote to her querying the fraudulent nature of the withdrawals.

Thanks to our Money Helpline, Barclays has now acknowledged the fraud.

What’s being done to tackle support scams?

That’s good news for Janet but, based on all the people we’ve heard from who are still receiving these calls, I can’t help wondering if enough is being done to stop these scammers.

We spoke to Action Fraud to see what steps it was taking against these types of scam. It wouldn’t confirm how many calls it had received about Online PC Care, but it did tell us that ‘anecdotally, we have heard of them.’

Action Fraud doesn’t actively investigate cases but instead refers them to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), which collates similar complaints. The NFIB wouldn’t say whether it was investigating Online PC Care specifically.

Even if the authorities close down Online PC Care, there will be another firm looking to step into its place. In the meantime, it seems it’s down to us to deal with these scammers. The best way to avoid technical support scams? Hang up as soon as they call.

Comments
Guest
Annie says:
19 October 2014

Thank you for your reply and reassurance.

Can anyone tell me if their scam is solely the taking of funds from the method of payment information they con out of people or can they hack into people’s computers and commit further fraud?

Guest

Annie, have you made a report at Action Fraud and got a crime reference number? You should do that now if you haven’t. And you should also tell your local police force.

Guest

Annie, I’m not sure what they’re actually trying to achieve, the fact that so many people have computer issues and they feel the need to scam people, rather than offer a genuine tuning up/virus checking service only leads me to think the worst of them.

I know this isn’t going to help, but as you’re on facebook I would post a message there warning your friends not to fall for it. As they may try and dupe them too. Too many people believe facebook when it prompts for all those personal details like phone numbers.

I would also look at changing the password on your router too if you have one.

Guest
Babs says:
14 March 2015

thetechhelpline.co.uk.
They have high charges for free software, access your PC. DONT LET THEM!!! and persistently phone you up!!!
Being non pc minded and quite frankly I now know an idiot I was charged £119 on February 2014 for the Annual Subscription fee for :
• Licensed Antivirus On Request
• PC Optimization
• Online Based Technical Support.
• Access to Certified Technicians for Support & Solutions.
They accessed my PC and installed free software which is available anyone. I asked advice from others and I cancelled the contract during the cooling period. I also contacted my Mastercard to stop the payment. Since then they have persistently phoned me up over the last year even although I have reported the matter to the Internet Fraud police.

Guest
Jon Timothy says:
26 July 2015

I have been contacted by someone claiming to be from the TV licensing authority, telling me that they are following up a letter or email they have sent about my account. (No such letter or email had been received). They then ask that I go through “security” questions with them before they can proceed to discuss the alleged “problem” with my account. Worryingly, the phone number that shows on caller ID is that of TV licencing. I did not believe this phone call as I knew my TV licence was up to date. I rang off, and reported the call to TPS. I also rang TV Licensing myself who confirmed that my account was up to date, and that no one from TV licensing had rung me.
So beware. If contacted by phone in this way, do NOT impart any information. Ring off, and report the call to TPS

Guest
Millie says:
29 July 2015

I have just been called by Tech helpline, an Indian woman named Janet Williams!!!! She advised me that I have problems related to my emails and my browser. I fobbed her off and asked for the number I could reach her on and was quite reluctant to give me it. I was very persistent and she offered to ring me back buy I said no. She then gave me the number 0800 0314014.
So beware!

Guest

@millie A quick search on identiies the number as being that from thetechhelpline dot co dot uk

A quick domain check shows

Domain name:
thetechhelpline.co.uk

Registrant:

Registrant type:
Unknown

Registrant’s address:
Synthesis Business Park,Action Area-II
Newtown, Rajarhat
Kolkata
700157
India

I got that within a few minutes how come the authorities can’t / won’t do it. It’s not rocket science

Guest

The correct number for tech helpline is 0800 031 4596 any other number is a scam. Never accept their calls. always ring them as its free anyway.

Guest
Catherine says:
8 March 2016

I just got cold-called today by The Tech Helpline, an Indian man named Steven Woods (yeah, right)!!! He asked for me by name and said they had got my details from “a publicly available database”. Well, my number is ex-directory. The call came from a UK landline: 01384 457287 (Dudley, West Midlands). He also gave me the number 0800 031 4014 to check them out.

Don’t fall for these scammers who want to hack into your computer and steal your ID … just hang up.

Guest
jacqueline white says:
28 September 2016

I have just had the same call as Millie, but mine was from an indian called Frank!!!. I said I was busy and asked for a phone number. 08000314014 He said the company was in London!!!!
Will I ring back? NO

Guest
MBarry says:
22 November 2016

I’ve just had that call from that number and website – thanks for the warning. Why can’t people just do something useful for other people instead of ripping them off and/or fighting them? Aren’t we ever going to evolve into better humans? It’s just so wearing always having to be on your guard against everyone (you don’t know) and everything. OK diatribe over – back to “life”!

Guest

I stupidly fell for this so called support from Tech Helpline and paid for 12 months at £129. I still have had lots of problems with computer which they assured me I wouldn’t have and ever since I`ve also had untold phone calls trying to get me to upgrade and pay more, funny how their all Indian but with English names. I actually mentioned this on the last phone call and told them I will get the police involved, they told me they use English names because we can`t pronounce their real names (rubbish). I`m glad I finally caught on before I lost anymore money. I learnt my lesson to great expense.

Guest

One woke me up this morning, so didn’t exactly get me in a good mood.

Usually I just tell them I don’t have a computer, but this morning I called the girl a liar and a scammer but she still continued with her patter. She put the phone down on me when I asked her how did she sleep at night knowing she was a liar and a scammer who stole money from innocent people.

Guest
Mel Davies says:
22 December 2016

Just had a call from 08000314014. Apparently there is supposed to be something “wrong” with my computer.

Having Googled the number I see they have a fully fledged website here:

http://thetechhelpline.co.uk/index.php

Just put the phone down to them. They should be forced out of business.

Guest

On 13/06/16, I paid The Tech Helpdesk.co.uk £179.94 (Insta Plan). And, would you believe (I no longer can), I paid The Tech Helpline £149 on 16/10/16? I realise too late that I have been incredibly stupid, and accept my losses.

Am I likely to be hounded for money again on the anniversary of those dates, and, if so, do I need to go to the nuisance of changing the credit card I used now/later? Can these companies interfere with my computer in any way, or are they just after my cash?