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Scareware' computer scammers stealing ID and bank details

PUBLISHED: 19:30 19 October 2009 | UPDATED: 15:05 05 October 2010

A SCAREWARE' internet scam is threatening to highjack' millions of home computers, the national consumer watchdog warns this evening. It could be used to copy confidential bank details and leave users at the mercy of fraudsters and identity thieves

By Mike Brooke

A 'SCAREWARE' internet scam is threatening to 'highjack' millions of home computers, the national consumer watchdog warns this evening.

It could be used to copy confidential bank details and leave users at the mercy of fraudsters and identity thieves, says Consumer Focus.

'Scareware' is a pop up message that appears to come from the users own computer warning the machine has been 'infected' with a virus.

The message contains a link to a website where the unsuspecting user can download 'anti-virus software' that will immediately fix the problem.

But once installed, the scam software records the keystrokes of users and transmits them back to the scammers. Sensitive information such as bank codes and other security information are often included in the transmissions.

"We've watched 'scareware' attacks become more devious in the last few months," waned Consumer Focus's web expert Joe Cicero. "They are accurate spoofs of Windows security alerts containing links to software posing as the very programmes designed to stop this kind of thing happening."

So home computer users are warned to be suspicious about any pop-ups. They are being advised to install only trusted anti-virus software and keep it up to date to minimise the chance of mistakenly installing malicious software, make sure 'firewall' software is turned on and check on system updates to repair any security flaws in the operating system.

Consumer Focus is a merger of the National Consumer Council, Energywatch and Postwatch.

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