‘Warn your relatives’ –  senior detective speaks out as IT support scammers fleece Hampshire victims out of thousands

Picture: Shutterstock
Picture: Shutterstock

VULNERABLE elderly people are being bombarded with phone calls from fake IT support scammers based abroad who are fleecing their victims out of thousands.

Fresh data revealed by Action Fraud this week shows more than 6,300 frauds were reported in Hampshire – with losses of £16.7m.

About half of that was business crime, with the rest individuals who fell victim to fraud.

And Detective Chief Inspector Paul Gelman, Hampshire police lead for cyber crime, said a ‘significant’ amount of those were service frauds – with scammers daily posing as IBM or Microsoft experts offering computer assistance on the phone.

With organised criminal gangs using phone numbers scraped from directories or bought from dubious firms, DCI Gelman is urging people to help potential fraud victims.

Speaking to The News ahead of a major police campaign later this year, he said: ‘People are phoning up pretending to be Microsoft or IBM and trying to get access remotely to their computer and clearing their life savings, which (for anyone) is pretty horrendous.

‘If you’ve got a loved one who is active online and you feel there’s a risk they could be a victim of this type of crime, sit down and have that conversation with them.

‘Make them aware that legitimate companies won’t call them like that.

‘If you’ve got a problem with your computer suppliers have helpline numbers. They won’t cold call you.’

Scammers persuade people to give them remote access to a computer – and then are able to empty bank accounts or leave behind malicious software.

Elderly people are victim to this crime often as they are ‘vulnerable and accessible,’ tending to be at home a lot.

He added: ‘Look after those people around you. For this type of crime that’s the best defence you’ve got.’

DCI Gelman warned such frauds are under-reported – with people both ashamed and perceiving police can do nothing about it.

He said police do investigate – and losses can be significant, even if nothing appears to have been taken instantly.

‘Something might be left behind and that’s a significant risk,’ he said.

‘Now somebody, somewhere has straight contact with your computer.’

Organised crime gangs based abroad are behind the frauds, with call centre set-ups offering crooks bonuses depending on how much cash they fleece out of UK victims.

‘It is an industry,’ DCI Gelman said. ‘You get call centres almost with reward charts and bonuses for defrauding people. The more successful you are the better your reward.’

Reports to Action Fraud are filtered to the relevant organisation – with some filed as having no leads. But others are sent on to the National Crime Agency to deal with international partners in other countries, and some come back to Hampshire.

In the 6,331 fraud cases overall in the six months to March, 214 were investigated by Hampshire police - with 151 judicial outcomes in court.