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A Lancashire-based PC hardware site has become the victim of a sophisticated and disturbing new online fraud.

Laptop Bits Ltd managed to get the bogus web site - laptopexpress-ltd.com - shut down last night just hours after being alerted to the scam by a regular customer.

What make the scam so "scary", as one security expert has already described it, is the time and effort spent by the fraudsters developing the fake site.

In effect, they've assumed the identity of a legitimate business with a very professional-looking site. Contact and company details were lifted from Laptop Bits Ltd and even the domain was registered in the name of a director at the company. The site was so complete and professional-looking it would be very hard to spot that it is bogus.

Although the fraudsters assumed the identity of a legitimate business, the give-away is that the goods have to be paid for by "money transfer" rather than by cheque or credit card.

At this stage it's not known if anyone has fallen for this particular scam, which is only thought to have been up and running for a couple of days before being unearthed. Initial investigations suggest the scamsters are based in the UK.

"Whoever is behind this faked a complete company web site and assumed their identity," said Andrew Goodwill, MD of online security experts Early Warning UK Ltd. "This is taking phishing to an all new level."

Having managed to get the rogue site pulled, he's now working to getting the fraudsters' bank account shut down too.

"This is the first time I've ever seen anything like this," said Goodwill. "This is scary."

And the reason it is so scary is that fraudsters appear to be willing to go to such extraordinary lengths to hoodwink consumers.

Tony Brocklebank of Laptop Bits Ltd said: "We're extremely concerned. Almost anyone anywhere could try and do the same thing tomorrow. The fraudsters have put time and effort into this. It is very worrying." ®

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