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Be wary of IT ‘phone contacts 26 November 2010

The Office of Fair Trading is advising consumers and businesses to be wary if they receive ‘phone calls out of the blue from callers claiming to represent IT suppliers.

The Office has recently been contacted by consumers and local businesses who have received calls saying that their computers have a virus. In this case the caller claimed to be from “Windows”. Following an initial chat the callers turned the conversation to how much they would charge to deal with the virus.

Unfortunately some of those who were contacted did agreed to pay for the “repair service”.

Although legitimate companies may contact consumers by ‘phone it is important to make checks on the company before agreeing to any services they offer:-

  • Don’t feel obliged to continue with the conversation – put the ‘phone down
  • If you carry on with the call advise the caller that you do not wish to make an immediate decision. Tell them you will contact them should you decide to take up their offer.
  • Ask for full contact details, including a telephone number. Be wary of a company which only provides a mobile phone number.
  • Put the company's name into an internet search engine to see what you can find out but don't be fooled by professional-looking websites as scammers are good at making their scams look authentic.
  • If the company purports to be based in the UK, check with Companies House (http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk/) to make sure that it is correctly registered.
  • Do not provide any financial details until you have taken the above steps and decided to accept the offer - in particular your credit or debit card details as these transactions can be difficult to cancel with your bank
  • Check with your own IT support or someone you know if you are worried

Chairman of the Office of Fair Trading, Bill Henderson MHK said “Consumers should be very careful to ensure that they know who they are dealing with. It is likely that these people are trying to get you to hand over personal or financial information as well as money. If this information gets into the wrong hands it can be disastrous for you. Bank accounts can be emptied and your personal details used to set up fraudulent identities. Clearly not all contacts you receive will be of this type but legitimate businesses welcome consumers who take care of their information so do not feel embarrassed to check them out before you do any business with them. If you are concerned or unsure, put the phone down. Then check. Don’t give any details out.”

Consumers may wish to consider asking for their names to be removed from telemarketing lists. To do so you should contact the Telephone Preference Service, telephone 020 7291 3320 or visit its website www.tpsonline.org.uk

Protect your financial information - Never give your bank account or card details to someone you aren’t satisfied is legitimate.

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