There have been a number of internet scams reported to Cheshire Police which involve viruses or spyware. One member of the public recently reported a virus which attacked their computer by blocking all access once they turned it on. A page was displayed appearing to be from Cheshire Police because it showed the police authority logo and the address for police headquarters in Winsford.
They were then asked to pay an upfront payment of £100 to remove the block by either going to a shop and buying a Ukash voucher from which the code could be entered online or paying via money transfer through Western Union. The fraudster claims they will unblock the computer screen after being paid.
Realising that this was a hoax, the member of the public did not pay any money and because they had antivirus software installed, the computer had detected the infected files straightaway. They commented that "The virus is clever because when it attacked my computer, it displays your IP address, login name and tries your location as close as it can."
All members of the public need to become more aware of the online scams that are operating, as the internet is increasingly being used to pay for goods by credit card, accessing bank accounts, and downloading web content online. Being’security savvy’ is the message that Cheshire Police are communicating.
DS Peter Kidd from Cheshire Police stated that "The internet has wider implications for the public who are not protecting themselves whilst online. This can be anything from disclosing your bank account details on websites using insecure web browsers, and downloading content to using the internet without a firewall in place or without antivirus software installed. Antivirus software will stop most viruses from even entering your laptop because they raise the alarm to infected files which have been found. Cybercrime can be minimised if the public know what preventative measures to take, prior to going online"
Staying safe online
1. Avoid becoming a victim of identity fraud - do not give any personal information (name, address, bank details, email or phone number) to organisations or people before verifying their credentials.
2. Many frauds start with an email. Remember that banks and financial institutions will not send you an email asking you to click on a link and confirm your bank details − otherwise known as phishing. Always question whether an email could be bogus.
3. Only use legitimate sites when paying by credit card. If there is NO padlock in the browser window or ‘https://’ at the beginning of the web address to signify that it is using a secure link, do not enter personal information on the site. Using verified by visa, when paying by credit card online can also give you extra protection.
4. Avoid using any money transfer service such as Moneygram and Western Union to pay for purchases. They are completely untraceable and are not secure.
5. Criminals use popular sites like eBay and PayPal to attempt to take money from people. Use PayPal when paying for an item, it is secure, you have cover if the item doesn’t turn up or is not as described up to the full purchase price including delivery and it costs the buyer nothing.
a) Log into eBay directly from your web browser by typing the address www.ebay.co.uk into your browser address bar, do not use links, email links or shortcuts.
b) Ensure your password is secure and is not something that can be guessed easily like your date of birth. Try to use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols that don’t form a word.
6. Keep your antivirus software up to date and keep your firewall on at all times.
1. Be very careful when you register with an internet-based dating agency or join an online dating chat room. There are dating scammers online − you may receive a contact from someone overseas who shows an interest in you. Gradually, you develop a long-distance relationship through emails, instant messaging, texting and phone calls. As the relationship develops, your exchanges become more intimate.
Once the fraudsters are confident that their relationship with you is strong enough, they will tell you about a problem they are experiencing and ask you to help out by sending money, for example, they have arranged to visit you but need money to pay travel costs, visa costs etc.
The person you have fallen for may also ask you for naked photos of yourself and/or ask you to perform sexual acts in front of a webcam. In some circumstances, the fraudster may blackmail you into giving them money or threaten to show any pictures of you on facebook or youtube. Once you send them money, the fraudsters will keep coming back with more reasons to send them money.
There is a government funded website called www.getsafeonline.org which is a ‘go to’ guide for the general public outlining all issues relating to the internet if you want to read more or go to the fraud page of cheshire.police.uk
Since the launch of Action Fraud across Cheshire on 18th February, victims of internet fraud are being advised to contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or visit their website at www.actionfraud.police.uk where the incident will be referred to the police force concerned.