Scam Calls on the Rise

In recent times, scam calls have become a serious problem affecting just about anyone with a phone. Some are easily identifiable, others not so much. So how can you identify a scammer, protect yourself from them, and what should you do if you believe you have been scammed?

What types of scams are there?

There are many, many different types of scams at any one given time. Scammers will generally circulate through the different types of scams as public awareness rises so as to try and trap as many people as possible. However, two of the most common scams always seem to be in fashion; The 'tech support' scam, and the 'tax office' scam. The 'tech support' scam is usually the most common we hear about. They generally target an older demographic, or those who are likely to be less tech-savvy. In most cases, the caller will identify themselves as being from Microsoft, Telstra or another well-respected brand, and will make claims that a computer on the premises is sending error messages or is infected and causing issues on the network. The caller will then work through steps to connect to the computer remotely, take control of the machine and then 'diagnose' the issue. Their end goal may be one of two outcomes; To try and make a one-off sale of 'security' software for massively inflated prices, or to try and access usernames and passwords to access online banking or to steal an identity.

The 'tax office' scam is growing in popularity as it is newer and traps many more victims. The caller will identify themselves as an ATO agent and will make claims that you either have unpaid taxes from years prior or that you have paid too much tax and are entitled to a refund. In either case, the scammer may make attempts to remotely access your computer, guide you to your banking institution and ask you to log in. From here control to the computer is lost, and funds are quickly drained into overseas bank accounts.

How can I protect myself from scammers?

There are several simple, yet highly effective methods that can help you avoid becoming victim to a scam. Firstly, if you receive a call from an unidentified number, never be the first to say 'Hello'. Computer systems employed by scammers call 100's of numbers at a time, and the calls are only connected when the system can identify a real human on the other end. Often, remaining silent is enough to fool the system into thinking nobody is available. Secondly, never divulge personal information to someone cold calling you, even if they claim to be from a reputable source. Some scammers may already know your name or phone number, but nothing else about you. Thirdly, keep a list of account numbers, tax file numbers and like near your phone. If you believe a call might be legitimate, ask the caller to read back your account or client number. Legitimate callers will have no problem doing this to verify their identity, and if they can't you'll know it's a scammer.

What do I do if I think I've been scammed?

It is vitally important to take action as quickly as possible if you believe you have been scammed. First, and most important, is to contact your financial institutions and notify them of the scam. Most banks have precautions in place to stop potentially fraudulent transactions, but it is best to contact them anyway so the appropriate countermeasures can be taken. This might involve cancellation of cards, freezing accounts or reversing transactions. The second step is to remove any software from your computer that the scammers have installed, including any remote access or security products. This can help prevent them from reconnecting to your computer without authorization. The third step is to run a full anti-virus and anti-malware scan to ensure no nasty surprises have been left behind. And finally, change all of your passwords, especially for your emails, banks, other financial institutions (like PayPal) and the like.

By following these steps and precautions, you can avoid becoming the prey of scammers. If you would like a hand in securing your home setup, or need help after being scammed, get in contact with us. We're more than happy to help wherever possible.