Internet users are being warned about cold callers who offer to fix viruses but then install software to steal personal information.
Campaign group Get Safe Online said a quarter of people it had questioned had received such calls, many suspected to have been from organised crime gangs.
Some gangs, employing up to 400 people, are known to set up their own call centres to target people en masse.
Internet users are also urged to be wary of pop-ups offering virus checks.
Earlier this year, search engine giant Google warned it had discovered massive amounts of malicious fake anti-virus software.
The UK warning on such software comes from Get Safe Online, which is backed by the government, police forces and major businesses with a stake in internet security.
It says it has charted a growth in two related scams designed to trick people into installing fake anti-virus software as a means of harvesting personal information such as credit card details.
Some of the scams involve pop-up windows claiming that the computer has been infected.
These "scareware" approaches encourage users to click through to a site hosting malicious or useless software that acts as a front for gathering personal information. Most of the time, the software appears almost identical to professional anti-virus products.
In other cases, gangs have set up call centres in eastern Europe or Asia and cold-call UK phone numbers attempting to find people to con.
In both cases, information gathered from the identity thefts can be used by gangs or sold on to other criminals through online market places.
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