Remote access scams – when a stranger calls…

An unexpected call to say there’s a problem with your computer should set the alarm bells ringing.

You answer the phone, and the caller says they’re from a well-known company like Telstra, the NBN or Microsoft. They need access to your computer to fix a problem. Sounds normal right? Except you weren’t aware of any issues. No matter, just hand over your credit card details, let the caller access your computer remotely, and all will be sorted.

That’s the scenario behind remote access or ‘technical support’ scams. But far from cleaning up your laptop, what the caller is really interested in is cleaning out your bank accounts.

$5 million lost to remote access scams in 2019

The criminals behind these scams often sound convincing, using tech talk or quoting legit-sounding employee numbers. But they’re a slippery bunch, and they’re after a lot more than a few bucks fleeced from your credit card. If you give the go ahead to access your computer remotely, the crooks can install malware that records every keystroke you make – including bank account passwords. From there, it’s child’s play for the scammers to siphon cash out of your account and channel it into their own.

In 2019, Australians lost $5 million to remote access scams, and over-65s are the most vulnerable. But no one is immune.

Protecting yourself from remote access scams

The thing is, there’s a simple way to know if you’re talking to a scammer. The clue is that big companies don’t call out of the blue asking to tap into your computer. For example, Telstra provides notice in writing about technical faults, Microsoft doesn’t make unsolicited calls to provide tech support and any communication with Microsoft has to be initiated by you.

And don’t be conned if the caller claims to be from the NBN. As a wholesaler, the NBN only rarely deals direct with the public.

Keeping your computer’s firewalls, passwords and antivirus software up to date is important. But when it comes to remote access scams, the best source of protection is you.

Never hand over details of your credit card or bank account to a random caller – even if they say they’re from an organisation you trust. And if a stranger asks to access your computer remotely, hang up fast!

What if I’ve been scammed?

If you’re concerned your computer may have been hacked or you have received any communication from an organisation that meets the above criteria, contact your bank straight away.