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Three bailed over computer scam

Three people arrested in connection with a scam which fools people into believing their computer is being monitored by police have been bailed.

Officers from the Police Central e-Crime Unit (PCeU) detained two men and one woman in Stoke-on-Trent on Tuesday following an investigation into criminals who use "ransomware" - a malicious software programme that is inadvertently downloaded and infects victims' computers.

PCeU officers based at the Metropolitan Police and North West hubs, assisted by colleagues from Staffordshire Police, searched three addresses and arrested a 34-year-old man and 30-year-old woman on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud, money-laundering and possession of items for use in fraud.

A 26-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud.

All three were held in custody at a Staffordshire police station and bailed to return to police in mid-February pending further inquiries.

Ransomware is used to dupe computer users into believing they are subject to a police inquiry and must pay a fine.

Once infected, the computer suddenly stops working and a page featuring police logos - usually including that of the Metropolitan Police Service or the PCeU - is displayed.

The page says the victim's online activities have been monitored by police and they have been identified as committing offences online.

They are instructed to pay a fine - usually 100 by electronic payment - for their computer to operate again.

Detective Inspector Jason Tunn, from the PCeU, said: "The arrests show we are determined to combat this type of crime. I remind all computer users that police do not use such a method to impose or enforce fines, so if you are confronted by such a page, do not enter any of your details. Call police on 101."

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