Australians are falling for scams that allow hackers to take over their computers – and this has already burnt a $7.2 million hole in Aussie pockets so far this year, new data has revealed.
Around 6,500 Australians have reported phone calls from scammers trying to trick them into downloading malicious software that gives the scammer remote access to their computers and bank accounts, the ACCC said.
The damage wreaked by these types of scams has nearly tripled, with the $7.2 million figure an increase of 184 per cent compared to this time last year.
“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,” said ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard.
Major Aussie brands including Telstra, NBN Co, Amazon, eBay, and other banks or government organisations have been caught up in the scam as hackers pose as representatives from those organisations.
Older Australians (over 55 and over) account for more than half of the losses at $4.4 million, but young people have lost $20,000 and Indigenous Australians have lost $38,000.
How computer hacking, or ‘remote access’ scams work
Scammers will often call pretending to be from a company you’re familiar with and trust.
They also create a sense of urgency to try to ensure victims don’t take too much time to think before handing over access to crucial personal details or devices.
WATCH BELOW: 4 Tips for Spotting and Avoiding Scams
Recipients of these scam calls may be told they’re being charged for a service they didn’t make, that their computer is already compromised, or their account has been hacked.
The scams don’t have to come in the form of a phone call, either; they can be an SMS text, an email, or a pop-up in your browser window.
The scammer will pretend they want to help you, or ask you for help in catching a scammer.
And if they tell you to download software called AnyDesk or TeamViewer, don’t do it – it’s remote control software.
Once downloaded, the scammer will have control of your device, and will ask you to log into applications like emails, banking and PayPal accounts.
And that’s it – from there, the scammers will have access to your banking information that will allow them to fleece funds from your account.
“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,” said Rickard.
“If you receive contact from someone claiming to be from a telecommunications company, a technical support service provider or online marketplace, hang up.”
But if you think the call or communication is actually legitimate, find the real contact details for the organisation and contact them through legitimate channels.
“Don’t use the contact details in the communication. Also, don’t click on any of the links.”
Banks will never ask you for access to your computer or accounts, and won’t ask for codes to verify transactions, Rickard added.