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ACCC issues warning about new twist on remote access scams

28 Aug 2018

The ACCC has issued another warning to Australians to be wary of scam tactics, as victims continue to lose large sums of money.

The Scamwatch website has recorded a significant spike in ‘remote access’ scams, in which a scammer uses phone or email to impersonate well-known businesses – and in some cases they impersonate the police.

According to ACC deputy chair Delia Rickard, the increase in remote access scams is very concerning.

 “The scammers are becoming more sophisticated. The old trick scammers used to use was to call people and say there was a virus on their computer that needed fixing but, in a new twist, scammers are now telling people they need their help to catch hackers.”

Australians have lost more than $4.4 million to these types of scams in 2018 alone. Scamwatch has recorded 8000 incidents in the same period.

“Losses so far in 2018 have already surpassed those for the whole of 2017, and sadly it is older Australians that are losing the most money,” Rickard continues.

The scammers will often impersonate Telstra, NBN, or Microsoft and explain that they need to access a victim’s computer to track ‘hackers’ or ‘scammers’.

They say that the victim’s computer is being used to send scam messages. But with access to the victim’s computer and online banking, they can apparently trap the supposed scammer.

“The scammer will then pretend to deposit money into their victim’s account. In reality the scammer just shuffles money between the victim’s accounts (for example, from a person’s credit card account to a savings account), which gives the illusion of money being deposited. The money is then sent out of the victim’s account as part of the con to ‘catch a scammer’, straight to the scammer’s own bank accounts.”

If a victim starts having doubts, the scammers will use scare tactics that say the victim will disrupt the investigation if they don’t cooperate, and they may even face legal action.

Those scare tactics are especially frightening for older people who may not be tech-savvy, ACCC says.

Rickard adds that there are many stories about people who have been conned into giving access to their online banking. Others are tricked into providing iTunes gift card numbers over the phone.

“It’s vital that people remember they should never, ever, give an unsolicited caller access to your computer, and under no circumstances offer your personal, credit card or online account details over the phone,” Rickard says.

“If you receive a phone call out of the blue about your computer and remote access is requested, it’s a scam 100 per cent of the time. Just hang up.”

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