More than $7.2 million has been stolen from Australians so far this year in “computer takeover” scams.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said the financial damage caused by these crimes, also known as remote access scams, is up 184 per cent compared to the same period in 2020.
How Remote Access Scams Work
The scammers call, text or email victims posing as representatives of well known organisations that have a large client base; such as ISPs, financial institutions and the Australia Tax Office. Depending on the role they assume, they tell the victim any number of stories to create a sense of urgency, such as the target’s computer has been compromised or their bank account hacked.
Victims are then convinced to download software that will supposedly help address the situation, but gives the perpetrators pretty much unfettered access to what is now a compromised computer. From there, personal details and account passwords may be harvested. Other software may be installed that can be used for attacking other systems.
Among the most common identities assumed by these criminals are that of representatives of Telstra and NBN Co.
A Risk For Everyone
The ACCC says people aged 55 and older have collectively lost more than $4.4 million this year from computer takeover scams – accounting for more than half of total losses. However, people from all age groups and walks of life have fallen victim.
“If you receive contact from someone claiming to be from a telecommunications company, a technical support service provider or online marketplace, hang up,” says ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard. “If you think the communication may have been legitimate, independently source the contact details for the organisation to contact them. Don’t use the contact details in the communication. Also, don’t click on any of the links.”
If you’ve lost money or given out personal details to a scammer, there are some steps that can be taken to minimise loss and other damage – but it’s crucial to act quickly.
Computer takeovers are just one of many flavours of online related scams. You can learn more about detecting and protecting yourself from scams; and for small business there is some specialised advice available.
Last month, the ACCC released a report indicating Australians lost a record amount to scams last year – around $850 million.