A TEAM based in North Yorkshire has been approached by Microsoft to help crack down on online scams.

The National Trading Standards eCrime Team (NTSeCT) - based in Northallerton and York - was expanded last year to tackle the scammers who cost people in the UK £3.5 billion a year.

In March, the team brought the first successful prosecution of a UK defendant involved in the Microsoft computer scam - where residents were cold-called by fraudsters claiming to be from the software company and told their computers were at risk.

The scammers then installed antivirus software and charged between £35 and £150 for it, despite it being available for free.

Mike Andrews, who leads the team, said they would be working closely with Microsoft and other companies to tackle the problem in future, spurred on by this year's success.

He said: "Microsoft in the US and UK have been in touch with us about this, as have BT. Companies get a lot of complaints from customers asking why they can’t block the calls so it causes them quite a lot of problems. We’re looking at how we can turn up ourselves, BT and Microsoft, to collectively minimise the problem.

"There are still a lot of call centres in India causing the problem so if we could find someone in the UK to arrest, we’re looking for a way to disrupt the problem. Microsoft were very interested to hear we had got someone for it, and they have investigators placed globally so we're trying to see where they can help us with their resources - working with local law enforcement in India to disrupt the problem out there. We can’t arrest people in India, but can work with locals there to help tackle the problem."

The team has just announced it had closed down 25 'copycat' websites in an investigation which led to five arrests around the country, and several more investigations are ongoing with links to Yorkshire, and all around the country.

The team is urging customers to take time when choosing a service or website, rather than rushing to the easiest or cheapest option.

Mike said: "We don’t want to give out the message the internet is a big, scary thing and no one should ever use it, but it’s just about thinking. If you were walking down the high street and thinking about where you were going to buy a television or a pair of shoes, you would go to a trusted store, rather than buying high-priced goods from just anyone."

If you have any concerns about scams go to tradingstandardsecrime.org.uk, tweet @tsecrime or phone 0345 4040506.