Unfortunately this is an all too common scam with thousands of people becoming victims.
How does the scam work?
Victims are cold called, usually by phone and told that there is a problem with their computer and for a nominal fee the suspect can fix it. The suspects often claim to be working with Microsoft who have identified that the computer has been infected with a virus and offer an update or fix.
If you believe you have already been a victim I recommend the following action:
- Disconnect the computer from the internet, turn off the wireless and/or unplug the network cable
- Get your computer and online accounts checked (preferably by an IT professional) for any changes and for any additional software that may have been installed. In most cases, a complete wipe and re-install of the affected computer will be necessary.
- On a ‘clean’ computer, change your passwords for your most important accounts. These accounts may have been compromised as well, depending on the security of your computer at the time of the fraudulent remote access.
- Contact your bank or credit card supplier to stop any further payments being taken and to dispute the fraudulent charges. If they wont reimburse the charges, I recommend contacting your home insurers as you may have cover for fraud.
- Report the crime to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040, or by using their online reporting tool
This page from the UK’s Metropolitan Police site contains more info and is very helpful to share with others to reduce the chance of them becoming a victim too.
If the crime occurred on a computer used for business purposes and contains personal/sensitive data then I recommend the advice in the section What should I do if there is a security breach? on this page from the Information Commissioner’s Office website. I also recommend contacting your professional indemnity insurers and notifying them of the incident.
HM Government have also produced the following very useful guide and I strongly recommend it as essential reading for any business owner: Small businesses: What you need to know about cyber security