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Student from Parkstone warns people not to fall for internet scam
A STUDENT who paid £100 to internet scammers masquerading as Cheshire Police’s e-crime unit has warned others not to do the same.
George Hunt, 18, panicked when he turned on his computer and up flashed an official-looking letter, apparently from the police, claiming he was being fined for downloading films illegally.
The lighting design student from Parkstone, who admits to downloading a couple of old movies, was horrified to read he had 72 hours to pay the fine, or face criminal proceedings which could result in up to six years in prison and a £2,500 fine.
He told the Echo: “It scared me – that’s what made me straight away go off to the Co-op and get the Ukash voucher to pay it.
“The last thing I want is trouble of any kind. I thought it was something which could affect my future career, which will involve travelling backwards and forwards to America – and you can’t get into America with any kind of criminal record.”
The creepy virus which took over his computer even used his own web cam to take his photo – which appeared on the scamming letter, along with official-looking police insignia and logos.
“That was pretty freaky,” he added.
“The letter does look very genuine. It even had ‘copyright of United Kingdom Police’ written at the bottom.”
George eventually told his dad Richard what had happened. He called Cheshire Police who confirmed it was a scam. He also managed to stop the payment before it went through.
Richard told the Echo: “The thing that bothered me the most was the fact that it was able to take a photo of you in your bedroom. It’s like being burgled.”
He said Cheshire Police had been inundated with calls from people who had had the same phoney letter appear on their computers.
George added: “I want other people to be aware and let them know it’s a hoax.
“People need to be careful – and have the appropriate security on their computers.”
The incident was referred to Action Fraud, a multi-agency police-led national body which works to tackle fraud and internet crime.
An Action Fraud spokesperson said: “We urge the public to be on guard against this type of scam – known as ‘ransom-ware’.
“The police, or other law enforcement agencies, would never contact people and demand funds in this way.
“If you receive a message like this, do not transfer any money or purchase vouchers and report the attack to us on 0300 1232040 or online at actionfraud.police.uk.”