Australians lost $7.2 million in home computer scam

ACCC’s Scamwatch said scammers have stolen more than $7.2 million from Australians by gaining access to home computers so far this year.
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The report said slmost 6,500 Australians have reported phone calls from scammers trying to convince them to download software that gives access to home computers and their bank accounts.

Scammers say that they are well-known organizations such as Telstra, eBay, NBN Co, Amazon, banks, government organizations, police, and computer and IT support organizations to cheat PC users. They 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. Scammers take advantage of the digital world and the fear of fraud and cybercrime to access people’s devices and steal their money,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

“These types of scams target and impact all people and can be convincing. People aged 55 and older lost over $4.4 million, accounting for almost half of total losses. Young people reported losing on average $20,000 and eight Indigenous Australians, some in remote communities, lost a total of $38,000.”

Scams of this nature will often be an unexpected phone call saying you’ve been billed for a purchase you didn’t make, your device has been compromised, or your account has been hacked. Sometimes they start with an SMS, email or pop up on a screen from a scammer seeking urgent contact to fix a problem.

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 their money.

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

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.

People can make a report on the Scamwatch website. They can follow @scamwatch_gov on Twitter and subscribe to Scamwatch radar alerts.

Scamwatch has received around 6,250 reports of remote access scams with losses of over $7.25 million.

Older Australians have been the most vulnerable group, with people aged 65 and older losing more money than any other group, accounting for more than a third of total losses. They also made the most reports.

People aged 55 years and over lose the most money to remote access scams, and more frequently than other age groups lose money to this scam type.

Indigenous consumers made 84 reports to Scamwatch with losses of $38,000. 27 people reported the loss of personal information.

Scamwatch received 295 reports from reporters who identified as belonging to a culturally and linguistically diverse community. Reported losses to these consumers were $803,838.

The most commonly impersonated organisations in 2021 were:

Telstra with 1730 reports and reported losses of $1.95 million, and

NBN Co with 1023 reports and reported losses of $477,980.

New organisations being impersonated since late 2020 were:

Amazon with 801 reports and losses of $1,240,288, and

eBay with 230 reports and losses of $149,087