Rise in scams targeting over-55s and how they work

Authorities are concerned about a rise in computer takeover scams that have proven particularly successful on those aged 55 and over.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) reports that those aged 55 and over account for almost half of all losses to computer takeover scams in the past 12 months.

These remote access scams were responsible for losses of over $7.25 million, with those aged over 55 losing over $4.4 million.

Breaking it down further, those aged 65 and older lost more than any other group and accounted for around a third of the total losses.

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According to the ACCC’s Scamwatch, almost 6500 Australians reported phone calls from scammers trying to convince them to download software that gives them access to home computers and their bank accounts, with the figure they reaped from the scams representing an increase of 184 per cent compared to the same time last year.

The scams can start with a phone call, SMS, email or on-screen pop-up seeking urgent contact to fix a problem.

The scammers pretend to be from well-known organisations such as Telstra, eBay, NBN Co, Amazon, banks, government organisations, police, and computer and IT support organisations.

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ACCC chair Delia Rickard explained that scammers create a sense of urgency to make you give them access to your computer via remote access software.

“Remote access scams are one of the largest growing scam types in Australia,” Ms Rickard said. “Scammers take advantage of the digital world and the fear of fraud and cybercrime to access people’s devices and steal their money.

“These types of scams target and impact all people and can be convincing.”

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Scams of this nature will often be an unexpected phone call saying that you have been billed for a purchase that you didn’t make, your device has been compromised, or your account has been hacked.

The scammer will pretend to assist you or ask you to assist them to catch the scammer. They will tell you to download remote control software such as AnyDesk or TeamViewer.

Once the scammer has control of your computer or device, they will ask you to log into applications such as emails, internet banking or PayPal accounts, which will allow the scammer to access your banking and personal information to impersonate you or steal money.

While remote access tools have been around for years to help IT support staff in their work, scammers are also taking advantage of the ability to remotely access people’s computers or smart phones.

“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,” Ms Rickard said.

“If you receive contact from someone claiming to be from a telecommunications company, a technical support service provider or online marketplace, hang up.

“If you think the communication may have been legitimate, independently source the contact details for the organisation to contact them. Don’t use the contact details in the communication. Also, don’t click on any of the links.

“Remember, your bank will never ask you to give them access to your computer or accounts, nor will they ask for the codes to verify transactions. You should never provide those numbers to anyone except to verify transactions you are making in your mobile banking app or through your online banking.” 

The ACCC is working with the private sector to disrupt these scams, including by sharing information with telecommunications carriers about the phone numbers used to call Australians so they can trace and block calls. 

People who think they may have been scammed should contact their bank or financial institution as soon as possible.

If they installed any apps or programs, they should also delete them from the device.

Support in recovering from these scams, including how to check if your identity and computer is secure, is available through IDCARE on 1800 595 160 or www.idcare.org.

Do you know anyone who has fallen for one of these scams? How much money did they lose? Have you received one of these calls or emails? How were you able to tell they were scammers? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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Written by Ben



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