Technical support scams

Technical support scams (also known as ‘remote access’ scams) play on people’s fears to get access to their computers and to steal their money.

Tip: If you have doubts about any caller who claims to represent a business or organisation, hang up and call them back using contact details from an independent source – find their number using the phonebook or the official company website.

Get help

If you think you’ve been scammed  by a cold caller, don’t feel embarrassed or helpless – there are steps you can take to limit the damage and protect yourself from further harm.

  1. Contact your bank or financial institution – if you’ve sent money or your personal banking details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately. They may be able to help by stopping a money transfer or cheque, investigating a fraudulent credit card transaction, or closing your account if the scammer has your details.
  2. Recover your identity – if you think you have been the victim of identity theft, act quickly to avoid further damage. Contact iDcare, a free government-funded service who can help. Visit the iDcare website.
  3. Protect your computer – if you’ve given a scammer remote access to your computer, run a full scan with your anti-virus software and seek reputable technical support. <link to protect your computer page – currently in review>
  4. Change your passwords using a different computer – remember, if you use the same computer before you restore from backup, then you may reveal your password and details to anyone with access.
  5. Report the scam to the authorities – If you have been a victim of a crime (such as fraud) report it to your local police. We would also encourage you to report the scam to the ACCC’s SCAMWatch and ACORN (Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network).

For information on other types of online scam see our scams page.

How these scams work

There are several variations of this scam but they tend to follow a predictable pattern which might be similar to the following examples:

  1. Someone calls you claiming to be from a well-known business or organisation. Organisations commonly targeted for impersonation include Microsoft and Telstra amongst others.
  2. The caller claims that there is something wrong with your computer or internet connection. They may tell you that your computer is infected with malware or that it has been compromised in some other way. They are likely to use technical language in order to scare or intimidate you into following their instructions.
  3. The caller convinces you to either install an application or allow some other form of  remote access to your computer.
  4. Upon gaining access to your computer, the caller may claim that they have confirmed the problem and ask you to pay a fee to fix it.

These scams play on people’s fears to illegally obtain money by deception. They are particularly dangerous as they not only steal victim’s money, they leave people vulnerable to more harm by exposing their computer to ongoing remote access. Using this access, criminals could install malware, such as keyloggers that capture online banking details, or they could try to carry out other scams against the victim.

Variations on this scam

There are a number of variations on this scam which include:

  • You call them - You may see a pop-up on your computer reporting an issue and telling you to contact a 1800 number for technical support. Upon calling the number, the scammer convinces you to allow remote access to your computer and  then reports that you have a serious problem that they can fix for a fee.
  • There’s some other problem – The problem reported by these callers isn’t always technical. In one variation, callers claim to be having problems processing a payment on your credit card. They quote the first six digits of a credit card issued by an Australian bank and ask you  to provide the rest of the number.

Note: The first 6 digits of a credit card are known as the BIN (Bank Identification Number) and are used to identify the issuing financial institution. These numbers are publically available but may be used by scammers to appear more authentic and convince victims to reveal the rest of their credit card details.

Protect yourself from phone scams

There are a number of precautions you can take to avoid becoming a victim of these scams.

  • Remember that 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. Scammers can obtain your number fraudulently or from anywhere it has been publicly listed (such as in a phone book).
  • Always keep your computer up to date with the latest software updates, anti-virus software and a good firewall.
  • Never give your personal, credit card or online account details over the phone unless you made the call and the phone number came from a trusted source. Learn more about protecting your personal information.
  • Never give a stranger remote access to your computer, even if they claim to be from a reputable business.

Learn more

Use the following resources to learn more about scams and how to protect yourself: