About scams – and eCops Updates

scamfrom LongstantonVillage.org admin
For a long time we have been posting updates from eCops. In the past, these have taken the form of a regular summary report of activities by our local PCSO, who was then Kerrie Harding. Recently, following changes in the police service, Kerrie left us and was replaced by Tony Martin. At the same time, the summary reports stopped arriving and were replaced by daily crime reports, listing all criminal activity across a much wider area. These have been much more difficult to assemble into a format suitable for this website.

I spoke at some length with Tony Martin at the recent Parish Annual General Meeting. He told me that as a result of financial cuts the number of PCSOs covering South Cambridgeshire has been reduced from six to just three, each of whom has a much larger area to cover than previously. They have been instructed to stop providing the summary reports as these are time-consuming; instead daily crime reports, which can be generated more or less automatically, are sent to subscribers to the eCops service.

This is why the eCops summaries no longer feature on this site. In the belief that residents in Longstanton have little interest in a stolen windscreen wiper in Comberton or an unsuccessful attempt to break into a shed in Little Wilbraham, I have stopped reposting the reports. I also believe that it would be unacceptable and unbalanced to fill the site with daily posts of such events. I welcome any comments.

If you want to receive regular crime information you can, of course, register for eCops’ email bulletins at https://www.ecops.org.uk/.

Scams and spoofs

One item that does feature in occasional eCops reports is the growing number of attempts to spam, scam and spoof innocent people out of their cash. Recently, eCops issued a warning to those who use PayPal when advertising goods for sale, e.g. on Ebay. The fraudster will contact the seller to say that they want to buy the advertised item. The seller then receives what looks like a genuine PayPal email, to confirm that the money has been paid by the buyer into their account.

With confirmation of payment, the seller will then send the item to the buyer’s address. The seller will later find that the PayPal email is fake and that the money has not been paid.

Scams of this sort are frequent and done on such a scale that the scammers only have to succeed in a tiny proportion of cases in order to make huge profits. I have long followed accounts on other sites of people’s experiences with the ‘Microsoft Support’ scam, in which you receive a cold call from someone purporting to work for Microsoft or ‘Windows Support’ advising that your computer is infected with a virus or has been hacked. They then lead the unwitting user through a process whose ultimate goal is to extract cash for repairing a computer that had nothing wrong with it to begin with (but may well have by the time the user has carried out the scammer’s instructions).

Until recently I had been spared this particular scam, but earlier this week I finally got my call from ‘Windows Support’ telling me that my Windows PC was being hacked as we spoke. I asked the caller to wait while I transferred him to my IT manager who would be pleased to know which of the 30 PCs currently in use on the premises was affected. The caller rang off quickly. (I probably have more PCs than most people, but certainly not 30, and definitely no IT manager.)

The next day I received a call, clearly from an Indian call centre, pretending to be from the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). The TPS is a free government-run service with whom you can register your phone number in order to reduce the number of uninvited calls you receive. In theory, all UK companies doing telephone marketing must avoid calling people who have registered with the service. Sadly, not all comply and the service can do nothing about calls originating abroad. My number is registered with TPS, but both of these calls got through; nevertheless, it is one useful tool in the consumer’s armoury.

The ‘TPS Scam’ involves companies either offering to do for money what the TPS does for free, or offering to do it better (unlikely), again for payment. Sometimes they claim to actually be the TPS, offering an enhanced level of service for, guess what – money. The irony of cold calling people to offer a service preventing cold calls apparently escapes them.

Both Microsoft and the TPS have made it clear that they NEVER cold-call people to offer services and NEVER under any circumstances ask for bank account details. Any call purporting to come from either of these organisations is virtually certain to be a scam. The digital world is full of benefits but needs to be treated with a measure of paranoia: there are people out there who want your money, so keep your wallet close and your bank details closer.

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