FILE PHOTO: A man takes part in a hacking contest during the Def Con hacker convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. on July 29, 2017.
FILE PHOTO: A man takes part in a hacking contest during the Def Con hacker convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. on July 29, 2017. Reuters/Steve Marcus/File Photo

“Remote access” scams are on the rise. According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch, there are people pretending to be from well-known companies, including Telstra, NBN and Microsoft, to gain access to their victims’ computers.

Scamwatch has recorded a significant spike in remote access scams, in which scammers impersonate a famous company and then tell their victims they need access to their computers using software such as TeamViewer. There have been more than 8,000 reports recorded in 2018 so far, with victims losing a total of $4.4 million.

“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,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

The scam involves someone impersonating a representative from a company and calling their victims on the phone to claim there’s a virus on their computers. Instead of their usual spiel that they would help them get rid of the virus, scammers now tell their victims that they would help them catch their hackers.

To do that, the scammers would tell their victims, they would need to use their victims’ computer and online banking to trap the “hacker.” They would then pretend to deposit money into their victims’ account, but what they are really doing is shuffling money between their victims’ accounts, such as their credit card account to their savings). This gives the illusion that there’s money being deposited. The money is sent out of the victims’ account, which they would say as part of the “catch a scammer” con, to the scammers’ own bank accounts.

Scammers will become threatening once their victims start to suspect. They would say the victims would jeopardise their investigation and may even face legal consequences if they refused to cooperate.

“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,” Rickard continued.

Rickard has advised people to “just hang up” if they received a phone call about their computer and a request for a remote access, saying “it’s a scam 100 percent of the time.” Scamwatch’s website has more information on how to avoid or report scams.