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Cold call scams targeting home computer users

8 April 2015

Scammers are making fake technical support calls on behalf of reputable companies to try and gain access to people’s computers.

Stay Smart Online understands that in the latest occurrence of this well-known and long-running scam, fake technical support callers are claiming to represent Telstra. These scammers cold call unsuspecting home users to warn them of a supposed problem with their computer which must be fixed as soon as possible. The scammers then ask the victims to install software that will allow them to fix the problem. However, this software gives the scammers access to the victim’s computer, allowing them to steal information and install malware.

The scammers may or may not request payment for their services.

These scammers are persistent and can become very aggressive if the victim expresses doubt or declines to follow their instructions.

Stay Smart Online has issued alerts about this type of scam in the past, including a nearly identical scam pattern in April 2014‘tech support scams’ targeting Microsoft customers, the changing tactics of cold call scammers, as well as some of the other types of phone scams used.

Protecting yourself from these scams

If you receive a cold call from someone who claims to be from a legitimate company and asks for access to your computer, hang up the phone immediately. Do not talk further to the caller and do not follow their instructions. If they call back, simply hang up again. More information about scam calls and how to report a scam call to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's SCAMwatch is available at the SCAMwatch website or by calling 1300 795 995.  If the phone calls persist then seek advice from the police.

Many legitimate technical support teams ask you to install software on your computer to allow them access and to address your problem. However, it is important that you make the phone call to them to verify that the person you are speaking to is a legitimate representative of that company.

If you think there may be an issue with your computer, do not discuss this with any cold caller. Instead, after hanging up the phone, call the relevant organisation on their publicly available phone number. Do not use any numbers provided by cold callers, as these will probably be fake.

In addition, never give your credit card information to anyone that has called you. It can be difficult to reliably verify the identity of a caller, and hard to spot a well-crafted scam. If you are interested in an offer made over the phone, ask for a phone number to call them back on. It is advisable to confirm the phone number through a directory service such as the White Pages and contact the business directly yourself.

More information

How to set automatic updates on your computer.

The information provided here is of a general nature. Everyone's circumstances are different. If you require specific advice you should contact your local technical support provider.

Feedback

Thank you to those subscribers who have provided feedback to our Alerts and Newsletters. We are very interested in your feedback and where possible take on board your suggestions or requests.

Disclaimer

This information has been prepared by Enex TestLab for the Department of Communications ('the Department'). It was accurate and up to date at the time of publishing.

This information is general information only and is intended for use by private individuals and small to medium sized businesses. If you are concerned about a specific cyber security issue you should seek professional advice.

The Commonwealth, Enex TestLab, and all other persons associated with this advisory accept no liability for any damage, loss or expense incurred as a result of the provision of this information, whether by way of negligence or otherwise.

Nothing in this information (including the listing of a person or organisation or links to other web sites) should be taken as an endorsement of a particular product or service.

Please note that third party views or recommendations included in this information do not reflect the views of the Commonwealth, or indicate its commitment to a particular course of action. The Commonwealth also cannot verify the accuracy of any third party material included in this information.

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