A West Yorkshire woman has described being tricked out of £14,000 by conmen who told her that her computer was full of pornography as part of what police in the county say is a rising tide of reported cyber crime.
Carole Pearson from Cleckheaton ended up paying over £14,000 of her life savings until she realised she had been conned.
According to West Yorkshire Police, between June 2015 and June 2016 total recorded cyber crime in the county rose by 119.4 per cent compared to the period between June 2014 and June 2015, with more than 5,000 crimes reported.
Speaking in a video posted on the force’s website, Mrs Pearson told how fraudsters called her on the phone pretending to be from the computer corporation, Microsoft.
They claimed that her computer was full of porn but that if she paid money, the problem could be fixed.
She said: “Nothing like this has ever happened before to me – it has had a massive impact on us – it is heart-breaking.
“This was my pension money and was supposed to be for our future – but I felt really bad when it happened – it was supposed to be out nest-egg. There is now no chance of getting this money back.”
Mrs Pearson said she only uses the computer for surfing the internet and a bit of line shopping.
“I would advise people to be careful – especially when giving personal details out. If someone calls you up about an issue like this then say you will call them back, go on their website and use the number listed there.
“I am disappointed in myself that something like this could happen.”
This was my pension money and was supposed to be for our future – but I felt really bad when it happened – it was supposed to be out nest-egg. There is now no chance of getting this money back.Carole Pearson
West Yorkshire Police and the county’s police and crime commissioner are launching a new cyber-crime campaign today and say the emerging form of crime can potentially affect anyone with access to a computer, mobile phone or tablet.
The majority of these crimes are ‘cyber enabled’, including personal attacks on social media rather than pure hacking type offences.
The biggest increase has been in harassment and unwanted contact offences, making up 52 per cent of all reported cyber crime offences
West Yorkshire Police is one of only a few forces in the country to have a dedicated cyber crime team.
The unit was created to help plug specialist knowledge gaps in the force, move on its complex cyber investigations and help officers investigate more traditional crime types using the latest techniques and technology.
Police and crime commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said: “Cyber crime is a key threat to individuals and our communities alike and that is why I made funding available to create the dedicated cyber crime team.
“The team are doing some fantastic work to safeguard our communities but they can’t do it without your help.
“Mrs Pearson has shown great courage in sharing her story and I hope that it will encourage people to think about their own online safety and reduce the chances of this happening to anyone else.”
Detective Chief Inspector Vanessa Smith, who runs the cyber-crime team, said: “Mrs Pearson’s case is tragic but by no means unique. The computer is the new crow bar for criminals and they are hiding behind a computer screen to prey on people.
“Many people think so-called cyber-crime is a victimless crime – they think only large financial institutions or large businesses suffer and when members of the public are caught up in the crime then they get their money back anyway.
“That certainly isn’t the case. Mrs Pearson is just a normal member of the public who was going about her daily business and has now lost a lot of money – money she is unlikely to ever see again.
“Mrs Pearson has decided to speak out to warn others about the dangers and help people to guard against becoming a cyber victim.
Cyber crime may be on the rise but there are some steps you can take to greatly reduce the chances of you becoming victim.
“One of the best ways to protect yourself is to be aware of the risks. That is why we are having this campaign and why Mrs Pearson has bravely relived what happened to her – if you are aware of what can happen you are much more likely to take precautions against it.
“I would urge people who perhaps see themselves as more ‘cyber savvy’ to speak to their friends and relatives who perhaps don’t know their way around the cyber world so well.
“I would also urge everyone to update their anti virus software and also always be cautions when responding to a phone call or email that sounds strange.
“If a company calls you or emails you ‘out of the blue’ then don’t respond immediately. Go online and check their website and if you still have concerns then contact them using the details on their website.
“It is also a good idea to regularly change your passwords and to back up everything on your computer – so if a hacker got into your computer and installed ransomware – if all your important family photos and other documents are securely backed up then the problem becomes an inconvenience only.
“Cyber enabled crime is also an issue we are seeing more and more of – people who would once fall out with each other in the pub are now doing so via social media.
“In such situations we would always urge people to be cautious about what they say and to who on social media and be considerate of the impact it can have.”
During the campaign West Yorkshire Police will be hosting a series of ‘Facebook live’ conversations – to be held today – 12 – 1pm and on Friday (same times). For full details please visit the West Yorkshire Police website.