Broadly speaking there are two types of cyber scams: In one, hackers try to break into your computer or system without your knowledge; and in the other, hackers trick you into compliance with their schemes, sending texts, emails or even calling to request you to give up information.
This latter type of scam is most threatening to individuals, but may also successfully target businesses. The scammer contacts you via phone, email or text and claims to represent large companies such as Telstra, the NBN, Microsoft or Apple, or to be a technical support service provider. This is known as a Remote Access Scam, and according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Australians lost $4.4 million in the first half of 2018 alone.
Typically the scammer says your computer has a virus or that they have detected it is sending error messages. They may also claim your broadband has been hacked, your internet connection or phone line are having problems, and that this is affecting your computer. The only way they can fix this problem is to remotely access your computer.
What happens next will vary. Sometimes they will try to sell you unnecessary software to “fix” your computer, or they may request your login, personal, bank or credit card details. Initially your interaction may seem professional, but if you don’t do what they ask, they will likely become abusive.
Protect yourself from these remote access scams at home and at work by never giving your personal or login details to anyone you have not contacted yourself. Reputable companies will not contact you to gain remote access, and will not contact you to ask for credit card information over the phone.
Remember that nothing can protect you from being contacted – but you can protect yourself by refusing to cooperate. Even a private number or listing your phone with the Australian Do Not Call Register does not stop scammers from calling or texting you. It is so inexpensive to use a dialer, these operations often just run through every possible number in every area code. Because they purport to be from very large companies, they rely on a high “hit” rate even if they are calling random numbers.
What else can you do? Add a professional monitoring service, such as Blutone Technologies My Personal Helpdesk (link to https://www.blutonetech.com.au/mph), to ensure you have the latest anti-virus software and instant concierge service when needed. If someone attempts to scam you, report it to the ACCC via their Report a Scam service (link to https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/report-a-scam). With common sense and solid cyber-security, you can keep your data, systems and finances protected.