Warning over cyber scam

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CYBER-crooks are targeting Wigan in a population survey scam aimed at discovering personal information.

Council officers have alerted national census officials to a ruse which could have seen residents unwittingly giving all their personal information to a fake website.

The census, which householders had to complete last year, was operated under strict security regulations.

But a borough resident alerted the authority to an e-mail claiming to be from census.co.uk, emphasising the importance of the census and the penalties for not completing it. It is addressed to “everyone” and invites the recipient to click a link and complete all their personal details online.

Julie Middlehurst, Wigan Council’s chief trading standards officer, said: “Criminals are clever people, and cyber-criminals in particular are finding increasingly sophisticated ways of getting hold of your details. Our advice is simple. Do not take at face value any unsolicited approaches, regardless of whether they come in the form of phone calls, emails or visitors to your front door.”

She advises:

Never provide personal information, such as credit card or bank details, to an unsolicited caller or e-mail – even if it seems to be a respected company;

Do not go to a website, type anything into a computer, install software or follow any other instruction from someone who calls out of the blue;

Keep a computer’s operating system up to date and install security updates;

Use a strong password and change it regularly;

Make sure the computer firewall is turned on, and that antivirus software is installed.

The director of the 2011 Census, Glen Watson, said: “We are aware that an e-mail entitled ‘Population Census: a message to everyone – act now’ is being circulated, allegedly in the name of National Statistician, Jil Matheson.

“This e-mail demands individuals provide personal information, supposedly for the census, and threatens fines. This e-mail is a scam and a hoax. We believe the links in the e-mail could download malware to any computer where the user clicks on the links. This could put your personal data, including financial information, at risk.

“Anyone receiving this, or similar e-mails, should delete them, not open any links and certainly not provide any information.”