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ACM together with telecom operators have withdrawn 100 phone numbers of fake help desks

19-02-2020

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM), together with several telecom operators, has withdrawn 100 phone numbers that were used by fake help desks. Criminals advertise online with phone numbers of such fake help desks, or they call people using those phone numbers offering help with computer issues. People who contact or are contacted by fake help desks often become victims of fraud.

Martijn Snoep, Chairman of the Board of ACM, explains: ‘We want to prevent criminals from using phone numbers to deceive people. That is why we have withdrawn phone numbers that were used by fake help desks. We did this in cooperation with the telecom operators. That is how, together, we are able to prevent abuse and consumer harm.’

Deception

English-speaking criminals call consumers at home claiming that their computers have been infected, and they offer help to fix this. Or they advertise online with phone numbers for help with issues involving, for example, Outlook, McAfee, or Microsoft. These phone numbers have Dutch area codes. However, people who call such numbers are not connected to help desks in the Netherlands, but to call centers abroad. Those call center representatives pretend to help with the alleged computer issues, but, at the same time, attempt to have the caller install a software program that allows the representatives to log in remotely to the caller’s computer. If such attempts succeed, money will be withdrawn from the caller’s bank account. This can run in the thousands of euros.

Cooperation

In the fake help desk case, ACM works together with, among other partners, the Dutch Public Prosecution Service, the police, and telecom operators. In this collaboration, the parties involved work together in the fight against help desk fraud. If it is clear that a Dutch phone number is used for committing help desk fraud, ACM together with the telecom operators will make sure that this phone number will be blocked. ACM has no jurisdiction over foreign phone numbers.

What can consumers do themselves?

Companies such as McAfee and Microsoft never call people at home offering help with computer issues. ACM advises people to be alert if a help desk representative recommends installing software to fix a so-called error. Even if a Dutch phone number is used to get in touch, criminals might be behind that number.

Fake help desks continue to claim new victims. ACM calls on victims of help desk fraud to report this to the police .

Phone numbers

Abuse of phone numbers is a serious societal problem. It leads to consumer harm, where vulnerable groups in society in particular are affected harder. This harm is often considerable. ACM wants to prevent abuse of phone numbers, and therefore closely monitors the assignment and use of phone numbers. If abuse does take place, ACM will take action, for example, by having phone numbers blocked by telecom operators.