Phone scammers are turning to cyber crime to con victims out of money
Online crime is taking a step into the real world with a dangerous new technology-themed phone scam.
According to a top security researcher, criminals are targeting victims all over the world with fake support calls pretending to be PC experts.
Masquerading as employees from the likes of Microsoft, Google or Apple, the scammers are able to persuade victims into installing harmful malware onto their devices without getting their hands dirty – and then making off with your data.
So what do you need to know about this new threat?
Although phone scammers have been around for some time, recent months have seen a huge rise in tactics using a distinctly technological theme.
Speaking to Express.co.uk at the company's Security Analyst Summit in St Maarten, David Jacoby, senior security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, warned that the scammers now have new techniques to try and trick their way in.
Calling the main home number (although Jacoby notes that there has recently been a rise in smartphone calls too), the scammers claim to be from Microsoft or Apple, saying that there has been a problem detected with a user's PC or Mac, often to do with the security of the device.
They then attempt to install a harmful program on the victim’s device, which could do anything from installing a virus to monitoring every key pressed in order to steal passwords.
The calls are normally spammed out in huge numbers, after the scammers largely guess which numbers are being used by specific telephone companies.
The scam normally takes place during the middle of the day, meaning that the elderly or unemployed are often hit hard, especially as they may be not quite as technology-aware.
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"This is a global problem," Jacoby warns, "there's a lot of small groups and copycats that are doing this."
"Phone scammers are a huge problem because they're very difficult to stop and to monitor," he notes.
"We don't really have any insight into how they work, how much money they make, which countries are targeted and so on."
"It's kind of an epidemic that's going on."
Scammers are taking advantage of those without detailed technology knowledge
So how can you stay protected?
Jacoby says that the key to not falling victim is simple – be vigilant.
"It's all about awareness," he says, "you can't really protect yourself with software on this."
"Microsoft, or Apple, or whoever they would never call your house and tell you that you have a virus on your computer – it will never happen!"
Jacoby and his fellow researchers are now conducting further research into the scams to try and understand how they work, but for now it seems that the best thing to do, is just be smart.
If you think you've been the victim of a cyber-attack, follow Express.co.uk's guide to the next steps to take here.