A new breed of sophisticated hackers have been targeting households in the borough, trading standards officials have warned.

The conmen’s cyber attacks mark a disturbing development in internet crime because they gained access to a victim’s computer while talking to her on the phone.

The fraudsters, who posed as Microsoft engineers, managed to persuade a 63-year-old woman, from Hampton, to come within a few clicks of giving them her bank account details.

The victim, who asked not to be named, said she knew more than three other people who had been targeted.

She said: “It is a very good scam. I had error messages coming up on my screen three times before and then I had a call from Microsoft care support. I thought about it but then I just felt ‘would a hacker really phone me?’.

“The man said he needed to check my software, so I let him have access to the computer. I was a bit worried but the Microsoft logo came up and it looked authentic.”

The hacker told the woman her software had expired and she needed to pay £99 to renew it for one year and £149 for two.

She said: “I said I needed to think about it, and asked for his phone number, but he got angry and refused to give it to me. He told me I would be blacklisted and then my screen started to go wrong and froze.

“I was really worried by then so I didn’t give him anything and I shut my computer down. I knew there were bank account details on there because I had downloaded a statement.

“I’ve had to reset all my passwords for online banking now. I’m going to have to watch everything for a long time now. I’ll have to be very wary.”

Trading Standards has warned householders in Richmond to be vigilant and not give out bank details or allow anyone to access their computer unless they are sure the person is genuine.

Councillor Virginia Morris, who has responsibility for consumer protection at Richmond Council, said: “Once they’re in, it’s easy to search through files and emails for bank details and tricksters like these will have no compunction in bleeding you dry.”

Anyone concerned about computer hacking should call Consumer Direct on 08454 040506.