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Internet router ‘hack’ scam targets UK homes

Scammers posing as BT, TalkTalk or Sky claim your router has been compromised and then try to extort money or steal personal data

Internet router ‘hack’ scam targets UK homes

With broadband now a utility, much like electricity or gas, the humble internet router has become a new target for the scammers.

Which? members have contacted us about a new strain of attempted fraud that is similar to the ‘Microsoft scam’, but instead sees fraudsters masquerading as your internet provider and claiming that your router has been hacked.

Here, we alert you to the details of the router scam and show you how to protect yourself.

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The router scam

In the scam, someone calls you supposedly from the technical support team of internet service providers, BT, Sky or TalkTalk. The caller advises you that there’s a problem with your router, either that it’s been ‘compromised in several different countries’ or that it just isn’t working properly. Either way, they claim it has to be changed.

To create a sense of urgency, the caller advises that your home internet will have to be shut down within 24 hours unless you take action.

The scammers then claim that they, supposedly being the internet provider, are so sorry about the issues with the router that they want to refund a sum of money. They then move into a traditional scam aimed at tricking you into making a payment, securing your bank details or gaining access to your online bank account.

How to avoid falling victim to a router scam

  • Treat all unsolicited phone calls with caution. If you have any doubt, just hang up and call your internet provider directly. Ensure you only get the number from the official website and don’t call any number given by the fraudsters.
  • Check your router. If they say there’s a problem with your router, go check for yourself. If you don’t have any internet problems, hang up.
  • Don’t ever give someone access to your computer unless they have 100% proven their credentials and identity. You wouldn’t let just anyone in your home, so the same should apply with your laptop.
  • Don’t give your bank details over the phone. Your internet provider would have these details already, so there’s no good reason why they would want them again.
  • Warn others. If you’ve been targeted or know someone who has, alert other people to the scam so that they can avoid falling victim. If you use social networks, though, try to avoid revealing too much personal information.

Another strain of the ‘Microsoft scam’

We contacted Action Fraud and it said that it was aware of similar cases. This falls into the broad category of ‘computer software service fraud’, more commonly referred to as the ‘Microsoft scam’, because the Windows software maker is so commonly used as the conduit for the deception.

In the Microsoft scam, a caller rings up and asks for you by name. They say they are a computer-security expert and warn that your PC, laptop or tablet has been infected with malware or has some other issue. They claim that they want to help you fix the problem.

Fraudsters often use name of well-known brands, such as Microsoft, as it’s likely that the victim will have a PC running Windows in their home. With so many people now having broadband, it’s unsurprising that fraudsters are now masquerading as the UK’s biggest internet service providers, BT, Sky and TalkTalk.

While it is possible that your internet provider may contact directly, you should always exert caution when someone calls or emails you up out of the blue. For more help and advice on how to avoid tech scams and fraud, head over to our Computing Helpdesk website.

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