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BT, EE referred customers to computer scammers

A BT customer loses nearly £300 and an EE customer just avoids losing £700 after call centre employees at both companies refer them to scam operators.

We are all regularly urged to stay vigilant to scams, but what if a company that you trusted referred you directly into the arms of the criminals?

We were alerted to two separate cases involving employees from BT and the BT-owned mobile operator EE giving a customer the contact number of a scam operator. One person lost nearly £300, the other narrowly avoided losing £700.

We contacted BT and EE about the cases and the companies are rectifying the situation. Read on for more.

Safeguard yourself from scams and fraud with Which? Consumer Rights in-depth advice.

BT and ‘McAfee support’

Which? member and BT customer Gerald Newman took up an offer of BT Virus Protect, an antivirus package provided for BT by McAfee. After encountering problems with the software he contacted BT for help but was told that, despite the software bearing its name, BT didn’t give support to BT Virus Protect customers.

A BT employee gave him a phone number, supposedly for McAfee support, but actually turned out to be a rogue operator. The scammer convinced him that there was a major problem with his PC and it would cost nearly £300 to get it fixed.

Worried that it was as scam, Mr Newman contacted BT but was reassured that he was speaking to legitimate McAfee support, so Mr Newman went ahead with the fix. It later turned out that he had been given the incorrect number, and, in fact, he should never have been referred to McAfee at all as BT has a dedicated Virus Protect support team.

After we contacted BT about the situation, it fully refunded the £298.80 he paid to the scammers, and also offered a gesture of goodwill payment of £200.

‘BT takes matters of customer security extremely seriously and we have policies and procedures in place to support any customers enquiring about BT Virus Protect, including a specialist team who work directly with the vendor to progress any customer cases,’ BT told us.

‘We sincerely apologise to Mr Newman for his recent experience, as unfortunately in this case, normal procedures were not followed.

‘We have fully investigated the handling of his case, and are taking appropriate action internally, including additional training and coaching of our agents.

EE and ‘Microsoft support’

After we published Mr Newman’s case in the December issue of Which? Computing, we became aware of a separate case involving the now BT-owned EE.

Mr David Sparling was an EE broadband customer who recently upgraded to the fibre package. He had some issues with his Gmail following this change, and so contacted the EE call centre. The agent sent him a few website URLs with possible fixes for the problem but, after none of this worked, he was given a number supposedly for a Microsoft support service.

Just like in Mr Newman’s case, this turned out to be a scam operator. Again the fraudsters attempted to persuade Mr Sparling that his computer had a ‘serious infection’ and, in his case, it would cost an eye-watering £700 to fix it.

At this stage Mr Sparling got suspicious and terminated the call. He noticed that his antivirus software had been deactivated by the scammer and, worried about what else had been done to his computer, he contacted EE about the situation.

EE advised him to get a full system scan and he has since done so at a cost of £164.99, which EE has since reimbursed. EE has made an offer of a ‘gesture of goodwill’ payment to Mr Sparling to cover his disruption, but he had not accepted it at time of publication.

EE told us: ‘We have strict procedures in place to protect our customers and we take all matters of customer security very seriously.

‘Normal process was not followed in this instance and we sincerely apologise to Mr Sparling for this. This was an isolated incident and we will ensure it does not happen again.’

Five tips on how to avoid scams

Scams can be difficult to spot, but there are various red flags that should make you wary. Follow our tips to stay safe.

  • Never call a contact number that has been given to you by someone else, even if they appear to be seemingly a trusted source – instead visit the official website of the company you’re trying to contact, and source a number there. If the number you’ve been given doesn’t match, don’t call it.
  • Watch out for spoof websites, which can often look very convincing. Check the URL to make sure you are on the official website.
  • If the person you are speaking to wants remote access to your computer (which usually involves asking you to install a piece of software from a website you are directed to), or says that you will be charged to fix an issue, this should raise a red flag. If these requests seem unusual or unexpected, hang up and call back on an official number.
  • If someone says that there is a virus on your computer, make sure you get a second opinion from someone you trust – or run a virus scan yourself. You can contact us if you are a Which? Tech Support member.
  • Don’t be afraid to hang up on a call if you’re unsure. Be polite but firm. If they’re genuinely who they say they are, they will understand.

Which? Tech Support benefits

Which? Tech Support includes:

  • Tech support helpline – arrange a call with one of our friendly tech advisers
  • Remote fix – Our experts can safely connect to your computer to diagnose issues
  • Tech support email – contact our advisers via email for one-to-one advice
  • Tech advice website – an easy-to-use online hub offering guidance, support and learning
  • Which? Computing – our magazine, packed with member-exclusive advice

How much does Which? Tech Support cost?

The full tech support package costs £6 per month, or £5 if you’re an existing Which? member.

You can find out more about how to join by calling our member services team on 01922 82 5010 or sign up online.

For more information before you join, visit Which? Tech Support.

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