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Criminals are using sophisticated techniques to impersonate companies, remotely control your computer and then steal your money. This type of “remote access” scam can be very worrying but following a few tips can go a long way towards keeping you safe.
What is a remote access scam?
A remote access scam is when a criminal convinces you to install software on your computer to “fix” a problem, only to then take control of your computer and steal money from your online bank account. It’s also known as a computer takeover scam.
The scam typically starts by you receiving a call from someone pretending to be from a telecommunications or technology company. Common firms that are impersonated include TalkTalk, Microsoft, Virgin Media and BT – but they could be from any company.
The criminal tells you that you have a problem with your account and that, to "fix the issue”, they need to install software on your computer. The software may be called TeamViewer, which provides the criminal remote access and control of your computer.
At some point, the criminal will try to convince you to log into your Internet banking – perhaps to pay a nominal sum of money for the “fix”. Shortly after, the criminal will then take control of your online account and transfer larger amounts of money. In some cases, the screen goes blank so you can’t see what’s going on.
The scam is then over in a matter of minutes and you’re left out of pocket.
How to avoid a remote access scam.
Remote access scams can come in different guises.
No matter what the story is, this is how you can avoid remote access scams:
- Look out for a phone call out of the blue. Particularly from someone claiming to be from a telecommunications or technology company
- Hang up on persistent callers. Especially if they become angrier if you don’t do what they say
- Don't be persuaded to download remote access software (such as TeamViewer) by a stranger and never share access to your computer with anyone you don’t trust. Without access, a criminal can’t directly control your computer
- Never share online banking login details or passwords with anyone. Not even if they claim to be from your bank or any other company
- Know that numbers can be spoofed. Just because a text or caller ID says it’s from your bank or another company, it doesn’t mean that it is. If you’re unsure, call the company on a number from a trusted website - not a number provided in an email, text or via a call
- Look out for viruses – even fake ones. As soon as you’ve given the criminal access to your computer, they may manipulate it in a way to seemingly show you loads of viruses. The criminal may then convince you that they’ll help you clear the viruses for a fee
What to do if you think you're a victim of a remote access scam.
If you think you’re a victim of a remote access scam, you need to contact your bank immediately. Your bank may be able to stop the money from leaving your account or they may be able to contact the scammer's bank to freeze their account.
You should also contact Action Fraud to report the scam and they’ll give you a police crime reference number.
- Fraud Prevention Centre - for tips and advice on how to avoid fraud
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