Beware police impersonators

Scammers are increasingly catching out people by impersonating well-known businesses or the police, so they can access computers and steal money or banking information. 

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch website has recorded a significant spike in these types of scams, known as remote access scams, with more than 8000 reports recorded in 2018 so far and losses totalling $4.4 million. 

These scams particularly target older Australians, said ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard.

“The spike in remote access scams is very concerning; 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,” Ms Rickard said.

Scammers will impersonate a well-known company, most commonly Telstra, NBN or Microsoft, or even the police, and spin you a very credible and believable story about why they need to access your computer using software such as TeamViewer.

“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,” Ms Rickard said.

The scammers claim they are tracking the ‘scammers’ or ‘hackers’ and tell the consumer that their computer has been compromised and is being used to send scam messages. This is where they say with the victim’s help, they can use the victim’s computer and online banking to trap the (fake) ‘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 from the victim’s account straight to the scammer’s own bank accounts.

“Unfortunately, there are many stories from people who give a scammer access to their computer and are then conned into giving access to online banking. Some are also tricked into providing iTunes gift card numbers over the phone to these scammers,” Ms Rickard said.

If a victim starts to doubt the situation, the scammer becomes threatening, stating that the victim will jeopardise the investigation if they refuse to help and may even face legal consequences.

These scams can be frightening when scammers become threatening and aggressive if they sense they are ‘losing’ the victim, or they are starting to cotton on. This is particularly concerning for older people who may not be as tech savvy.

“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,” Ms Rickard said.

“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.”

For more advice on how to avoid or report scams, visit Scamwatch.

Have you ever been taken in by a remote access scam? How did you rectify the situation?

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Written by Ben

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