Criminal gangs are using cold calling operations to con unsuspecting internet users into paying to download malware disguised as anti-virus software, security professionals have warned.
According to research by internet security initiative GetSafeOnline.org, around one in four UK adult internet users has been approached by someone claiming to be from an IT helpdesk offering to check their computers for viruses.
Often operating on a commercial scale, these criminals then try to sell the victim fake security software or a patch to fix the ‘problem’, usually for around £30.
In some cases, gangs have made millions from stealing and using the card details provided to download the software. Many employ hundreds of people to run the operations, using call centre-style set-ups to con victims en masse.
Baroness Neville-Jones, minister of state for security, said: "Given that our latest research indicates 80 per cent of UK internet users have never heard of these ‘IT helpdesk’ scams, yet almost a quarter have been approached by them, it is vital that we make people aware of this threat.”
GetSafeOnline.org, which is backed by the government, released the information as part of Get Safe Online week.