Warning over telephone conmen as scammers target Hartlepool Trading Standards officials for cash
Hartlepool Trading Standards officers are urging the public to be vigilant after being targeted by scammers themselves.
After receiving a number of reports of a scam where scammers pretend to work for BT in order to gain access to bank details, Trading Standards officers in the town were then contacted directly by scammers.
They received a call to one of their direct lines and immediately identified it as a scam call.
But Trading Standards officer Dan Briggs decided to continue with the call to find out the exact process in order to help the public.
Alerting the public to the scam on Facebook, a spokesman for Hartlepool Trading Standards said: "There was no requirement to press a number, he just had to hold on and the call connected to a call handler automatically.
"The female caller repeatedly claimed to work for BT and stated that the security of the line and router had been compromised so that a person from China had been looking at illegal material online using the IP address linked to the account which will land the officer in trouble with the police meaning they could face prosecution for something they haven’t done.
"The caller asked the officer to get all devices connected to the internet and start them up to be able to describe what was on the screen.
"At this the officer decided to inform the caller who he was.
"Surprisingly the caller hung up immediately."
Trading Standards officer Dan said this type of scam has been going on for years, but in the last month alone their office had received around 15 reports from members of the public who had been called by such scammers.
He said: "Scammers all want to get as much money out of the victim as quickly as they possibly can.
"They generally try to obtain access to your computer so that they can to install a virus to obtain personal details so they can empty the victim's bank account.
"In cases where a person does not have online banking they can even set up online banking and empty the bank account."
Mr Briggs said it was not the first time Trading Standards had received a scam call but said it was the first time they had gone through the process so that they had a greater understanding of the call to help the public.
He said as the scam is based in another country officers are unable to do much more than to raise awareness with the public, but said the more it gets reported he hopes the Government will then act.
Mr Briggs continued: "If you are aware of a scam Trading Standards would encourage people to report it to us and to let people know about it - particularly the more elderly or vulnerable members of the family as they are often the people who are frightened by what the scammers are saying."