You most likely wouldn’t hand over the keys to your front door to a stranger, nor would you invite someone into your home that you didn’t know. You’re probably also cautious to not let anyone look over your shoulder when you’re using an ATM. So why would you give someone access straight into your bank account?
It might seem extreme, but this is essentially what many people end up doing every day through remote access scams. In April 2022, Australians lost more than $1.88 million dollars in these types of scams alone.
A remote access scam occurs when a person contacts you to inform you of a problem with your computer, internet or device, and offers the software or fix for the problem. The scammer will often pretend to be a staff member from a computer or telco company, or may claim to be a technical support service provider. They may also claim you have been hacked in some way.
They may then request remote access to your computer or device to find out the problem and help fix it, by sending you a link to click. They could also request personal information, or credit card details to cover the ‘cost’ of the supposed ‘fix’ they are offering you.
While their manner may start out calm and professional, the scammers can quickly change to a more aggressive tone and put pressure on you to act.
While in the past, scam numbers may have looked like they come from overseas, these days numbers can easily be spoofed, and look like they’re coming from a local source. And you can still receive scam calls, even if you have listed your number on the Australian Government's Do Not Call Register.
If you receive a call out of the blue from someone claiming you have a problem on your device or service, Leanne Vale, Director Financial Crimes and Cyber Resilience for Customer Owned Banking Association, says the best course of action is to hang up the phone.
"Your best defence is to just hang up the phone and not talk to them," she says.
"If someone calls saying they’re from a telco provider or utility company, and you think there may be some legitimacy to their claims, still hang up the phone. Then go and ring back that organisation on the official number that you have found independently."
No matter whether there is a legitimate problem or not, Leanne says a telco or utility company will never ask for access to your device. And if there is an issue and a company does reach out to you, they would never hold it against you for doing your own due diligence and calling them back independently.
"No company needs access to your device, and you should treat your device like you would your house or your car," says Leanne.
"The minute you open your bank account to these scammers, you are at risk of losing everything in there."