WA victims fleeced in tech support scam

WA victims have lost almost $400,000 so far this year in an alarming escalation of the tech support scam.

From 1 January to 30 April 2016, WA ScamNet at Consumer Protection received reports from 36 victims who had lost a total of $397,151 to the scam. During the same period last year, 25 victims had reported losing a total of $78,386. During 2015, 70 victims reported losing a total of $188,478.

The scam involves victims getting phone calls from criminals saying they are tech support officers from Telstra, Optus and sometimes Microsoft, and they require access to the victim’s computer in order to fix a problem. After being given access remotely, the scammers then get the victims to log on to their bank accounts and the money is later stolen.

Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard said it was alarming that losses to this scam had already increased five-fold compared to the same time last year.

“Giving remote access to your computer to someone who has rung you out of the blue can be a very expensive mistake, with victims this year losing about $11,000 each on average,” Mr Hillyard said.

“Access to your computer means access to your personal information, including bank log in details, and scammers may also entice you to log in with what may seem a credible story.

“Don’t be fooled by these random calls. Unless you have contacted that organisation for tech support, hang up immediately and don’t take the bait. Never allow anyone to have remote access to your computer, unless you have initiated the contact and are sure the person on the phone is genuine.

“Your personal information is the key to unlock your financial accounts, so guard them carefully and ensure you don’t become one of the many victims of this tech support scam.”

This warning comes at the start of National Consumer Fraud Week (16-20 May 2016) with government agencies throughout Australia running a community awareness campaign with the theme ‘wise up to scams’.

The campaign promotes the following advice to avoid becoming a victim:

  • Do not let anyone pressure you into making decisions. Scammers often try to create a sense of urgency so the recipient of the call will act impulsively. They do this through short deadlines, fake emergencies or threats of legal action;
  • Get a second opinion. If someone is requesting money from you and you have any doubts, discuss it with a trusted and reliable third party;
  • Get your own investment advice. Do not respond to emails and phone calls from strangers offering predictions on shares, investment tips, or investment advice. Always do your own research before you invest any money and check the company or scheme is licensed on ASIC’s MoneySmart website;
  • Be wary of online dating. Know who you’re dealing with. Don’t send money to someone you’ve never met in person. If someone approaches you on social media and you don’t know them, it may be a scam;
  • Computer companies won’t call you. If you receive a call claiming to be from Microsoft, Telstra or anyone else telling you your computer has a problem, it is likely to be a scam. Never allow anyone to remotely log into your computer;
  • Government agency calling. Government agencies will generally write to you if you are entitled to money or if you have to pay money. If somebody calls you claiming to be from the Government offering you unexpected money or demanding you pay an outstanding debt, be cautious. Get enough information on the organisation and the caller and then find independent contact details so you can check the legitimacy of what you have been told.

For information on scams visit www.scamnet.wa.gov.au or enquiries can be made by emailing wascamnet@commerce.wa.gov.au or calling 1300 30 40 54.

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