In the first six months of 2021, Australians lost over AU$7 million by letting scammers access their home computers — up 184% when compared to last year.
The latest data from the ACCC’s Scamwatch reveals so far this year almost 6,500 Australians have reported phone calls from scammers trying to convince them to download software that gives access to home computers and their bank accounts.
“Remote access scams are one of the largest growing scam types in Australia. Scammers take advantage of the digital world and the fear of fraud and cybercrime to access people’s devices and steal their money,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.
“These types of scams target and impact all people and can be convincing.”
People aged 55 and over lost over AU$4.4 million, accounting for almost half of total losses. Young people reported losing on average AU$20,000 and eight Indigenous Australians, some in remote communities, lost a total of AU$38,000, across 84 reports.
The ACCC said the scammers pretend to be from organisations such as Telstra, eBay, NBN Co, Amazon, banks, government organisations, police, and computer and IT support organisations.
Telstra was impersonated 1,730 times, with reported losses of AU$1.95 million, followed by NBN Co with 1,023 reports and reported losses of AU477,980.
The scammer’s modus operandi is to create a sense of urgency to make victims provide access to their computers via remote access software. A common tactic used by the scammers, too, is to say the victim has been billed for a purchase they didn’t make, then convince the victim their device has been compromised, or account “hacked”, as a result.
“The scammer will pretend to assist you or ask you to assist them to catch the scammer,” the ACCC cautioned. “They will tell you to download remote control software such as AnyDesk or TeamViewer.”
Once the scammer has control of the device, they will ask the individual to log into applications such as emails, internet banking, or PayPal accounts, which is how they obtain the log-in credentials.
“It is really important not to let anyone who contacts you out of the blue access your devices, as once you give them access, you have no way of knowing what the person will do to your computer or what programs they may install,” Rickard added.
“If you receive contact from someone claiming to be from a telecommunications company, a technical support service provider or online marketplace, hang up. 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.”
Australians in 2020 lost a total of AU$8.4 million to remote access scams.
The total number of scams received by the ACCC’s Scamwatch during the 2020 calendar year was 216,087, with a total of AU$156 million lost.
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