Remote access scams
What are they?
Remote access scams (also known as technical support scams) usually involve scammers contacting people over the phone to get access to their computers and to steal their money.
Tip: If you have doubts about any caller who says they represent a business or organisation, hang up and call the business back using contact details from an independent source – find their number using the phone book or the official company website. Don’t trust contact details given to you by the caller.
What to look out for
There are several types of this scam but they tend to follow a similar pattern, like these examples:
- Someone calls you saying they are from a well-known business or organisation. Organisations often used for this type of scam include Microsoft, NBN and Telstra.
- The caller says there is something wrong with your computer or internet connection. They may say your computer is infected with malware (software designed to harm your computer or files) or that it has been compromised in some other way.
- They will probably use technical language to scare or intimidate you into following their instructions.
- The caller convinces you to install an application or give them access (called remote access) to your computer.
- Once they have access to your computer, the caller may say they have confirmed the problem and ask you to pay a fee to fix it.
Why are these scams effective?
These scams play on people’s fears to illegally obtain money by deception. They are particularly dangerous because after scammers steal their victim’s money they can continue to access to the victim’s computer and cause more harm. Using this access, scammers can install malware, such as keyloggers which record and 'log' each key you press. Malware like keyloggers may be used to capture confidential information such as login or banking details.
Variations on this scam
There are different types of this scam, for example:
- You are prompted to call them (the scammers). You may see a pop-up notice on your computer reporting an problem with your computer and telling you to contact a 1800 number for technical support. When you call the number, the scammer convinces you to allow them to remotely access your computer. When the scammer has access to your computer, they will usually tell you there’s a serious problem they can fix for a fee.
- They call you about a bank payment or some other problem. The problem reported by scam callers isn’t always technical. In one scam, callers say they are having problems processing a payment on your credit card. They quote the first six digits of a credit card issued by an Australian bank, then ask you to provide the rest of the number.
Note: The first six digits of a credit card are known as the BIN (Bank Identification Number) and are used to identify the bank or credit union. These numbers are publicly available but can be used by scammers to appear more authentic and convince victims to reveal the rest of their credit card details.
Tips to protect yourself
Take the following steps to avoid becoming a victim of these scams:
- Remember, everyone can be targeted: Scammers can obtain your phone number fraudulently or from anywhere it has been publicly listed (such as in a phone book). Remember you can still receive scam calls even if you have a private number or have listed your number on the Australian Government’s Do Not Call Register.
- Undertake software updates: Always keep your computer up-to-date with the latest software updates, anti-virus software and a good firewall.
- Protect your details: Never give your credit card or online account details over the phone unless you made the call and you’re using a phone number from the a trusted source like the organisation’s official website. Learn more about protecting your personal information.
- Don’t give remote access to a stranger: Never give a stranger remote access to your computer, even if they claim to be from a well-known business.
Go to our Get Help page for steps you can take quickly to protect yourself from further harm, report the scam, or seek assistance if you’ve been the victim of identity theft.