Computer burglars spread net for computer

Burglars have discovered a new way to find out when your home computer will be unguarded: ring you up and ask. Charles Arthur, Science Editor, explains why a computer survey offering free software is something you can do without.

"Hello, I'm carrying out a survey on behalf of a major software supplier. Do you own a computer at home? You could be eligible for free software if you take part in our survey..."

Tempting words, but an independent group has warned that the only survey being carried out is of whether you'll be at home during the day. If not, you'll get an unwelcome visit - from burglars.

The Internet Content Register (ICR), a consumer protection group focussing on the Internet in the UK, says it has learnt of seven home burglaries over the past two months, each preceded by a bogus telephone survey. All the victims lived near the M6, in Staffordshire, Yeovil and Cheshire.

Martin Hawkes of the ICR said: "They seem to be trawling the Internet for Britons who give out their phone numbers in discussion group postings or Web sites. Then they contact them and get more information."

The burglars then zero in to try to find how valuable their computers are and when they will be unguarded.

In a formal warning, which it has checked with Scotland Yard, the ICR says: "The questionnaire appears to be pretty routine - inadvertently, you will be providing information about your working hours, nightlife, your computer equipment and your net worth to a burglar. It would appear that people are being burgled within a couple of days of receiving one of these survey calls."

Sometimes the burglars target more than one person in a company. "We heard about a case where one person was burgled in this fashion after receiving a call at work. A couple of days later someone else at his workplace got the same call - but because he had heard about the other person, he didn't give out anything."

The key information that the thieves are really looking for is the answer to questions like "Would it be convenient if we come along tomorrow at about, say, 11am to install your free software?" If the answer is no, that offers the perfect opportunity for a fruitful break-in.

The ICR suggests that if you receive one of these calls: do not provide any personal information about you, your lifestyle or your computer equipment; try dialling 1471 immediately after the call to obtain the telephone number of the caller; and, make a note of anything strange and contact your local police or the ICR with as much information - date, time and mannerisms, strange questions - as you have available.

If you have already received such a call, contact your local police, and advise the ICR so it can update its records. The ICR is on 01782 506916 or www.internet.org.uk.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions