London, Nov 15 (ANI): A campaign group has warned UK internet users about cold callers who offer to fix viruses but then install software to steal personal information.
National campaign group Get Safe Online, which is backed by the government, police forces and major businesses with a stake in internet security, has said a quarter of people it had questioned had received such calls, many suspected to have been from organised crime gangs.
Some gangs, employing up to 400 people, are known to set up their own call centres to target people in mass.
Internet users are also urged to be wary of pop-ups offering virus checks.
It says it has charted a growth in two related scams designed to trick people into installing fake anti-virus software as a means of harvesting personal information such as credit card details.
Some of the scams involve pop-up windows claiming that the computer has been infected.
These "scareware" approaches encourage users to click through to a site hosting malicious or useless software that acts as a front for gathering personal information. Most of the time, the software appears almost identical to professional anti-virus products.
In other cases, gangs have set up call centres in Eastern Europe or Asia and cold-call UK phone numbers attempting to find people to cheat.
In both cases, information gathered from the identity thefts can be used by gangs or sold on to other criminals through online market places.
"In recent cases, we have seen gangs employing 300 to 400 people to run their operations and using call centre-scale set ups to target victims en masse," BBC News quoted Sharon Lemon, deputy director of Soca, as saying.
"They can also be paying out as much as 150,000 dollars (92,000 pounds) a month to individual webmasters who are unwittingly advertising their fake software - this level of investment from criminals indicates that the returns are much heftier than this," Lemon added.
Tony Neate, head of Get Safe Online, said that almost half of Internet users surveyed for the organisation's annual report had been confronted with pop-up windows warning of viruses.
"Web users should ignore 'cold calls' from companies offering free virus checks, and be very cautious of any on-screen pop ups," he said.
"Most reputable IT providers do not approach customers in this way without prior notice or a direct request," Neate added. (ANI)