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Tech support phone scam 

It is more than five years since WA ScamNet first issued a warning about phone scammers pretending to be a reputable company offering technical support in order to get access to your computer and your money.

While the number of people reporting to us that they have been caught up in this scam has decreased, the total monetary loss has unfortunately increased. 

  • 2010/11 – 2,243 calls, 103 complainants, $26,410 lost
  • 2011/12 – 1,182 calls, 41 complainants, $20,127 lost
  • 2012/13 – 592 calls, 67 complainants, $47,907 lost
  • 2013/14  – 585 calls, 126 complainants, $154,302 lost

In 2010 the average financial loss per complainant was $256, in 2013 it was $695 and in 2014 it was $1224.

Individual losses range from $100 to $20,000!!! The raiding of bank accounts is one reason for high individual losses.

We will continue to issue alerts in the knowledge that the scammers will changes their tactics, including the names of organisations they are supposed to be working for.

How the scam works

You get an out-of-the-blue phone call from a tech support person who says they know  you have been having computer problems and wants to help. 

Many of us find it difficult to get IT help when we are seeking it urgently but to be offered this assistance uninvited is not the norm.

  • The caller may claim or make it sound like they are from: 
    • Microsoft
    • Windows Support
    • e-Commerce
    • Support-On-Click
    • Telstra Technical Support
    • BigPond
    • Apple
    • the ACMA

None of these organisations will call you to offer computer help unless you have lodged a request with them.

  • The caller will ask for remote access to your computer and it is likely they will create a sense of urgency by saying your computer has a virus and you stand to lose data.

Anyone can connect to your computer if you give them the IP address or if you follow instructions to download remote access software (these programs are freely available on the internet). Once you have downloaded and installed a remote access software program the caller will ask you to input their unique code to give them control of your computer.

They can infect your computer with malicious software to stop programs from working or put in key stroke recorders to see what passwords you type in and change the passwords to lock you out. Alternatively they may show you ‘scare-ware’ – programs which look like viruses to scare you – and install free anti-virus software but pretend that it’s worth money. 

  • They’ll ask you for a fee for (often unnecessary) work carried out. 

Usually they get you to pay by credit card but they might offer an online wire transfer method of payment through a webpage they bring up on your computer screen. We have also heard of requests for direct bank transfer to an account in South Australia and it’s likely this is going to a money mule – someone being used unknowingly to launder money.

The truth

These callers are overseas based scammers (often based in India) who want to gain access to your computer and personal details and worse still charge you for the privilege. 

The fact that they are based overseas, where it is hard to apply Australian law, and that they are often using a telephone re-routing system, which prevents us from identifying exactly where the original call is from, limits our ability to trace the scammers and take action.

Read some of our previous warnings at: 

If you get one of these calls, do not try to play the scammers at their own game or string them on. Simply hang up. The more you talk, the more chance you have of inadvertently giving them ammunition for another scam attempt. Remember it is OK to hang up, they called you without invitation, you owe them no courtesy.

Secondary scams 

Follow up calls are made to people who paid money to the tech support scammers.

The caller may claim that the payment has been declined and an alternative credit or debit card number needs to be provided. This is just a way to extort money twice.

The scammers may also pretend to be from a government or law enforcement agency (either foreign or Australian), ‘a bank’ or they may even claim to represent the true Microsoft. They will offer compensation and need some sort of fee to facilitate payment of the compensation.

There is no official compensation scheme for people duped in the tech support scam.

Been caught out? 

  • If you paid by credit card, seek a charge back from your credit card provider; however be mindful that the financial institution may refuse because you knowingly handed over your account details rather than them being obtained fraudulently. If this happens you should speak to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
  • Report the details to WA ScamNet.
  • Keep an eye on your credit card statements for future unauthorised transactions which you will be able to dispute.
  • If you paid by a wire transfer on a webpage provided by the scammers there is no option to seek a charge reversal. Report the details to WA ScamNet.
  • If you paid directly into a bank account, report the details to WA ScamNet.
  • Seriously consider getting a local, reputable computer technician to inspect your computer in case there is a need to remove spyware (software which can spy on what you are doing to gain access to your internet banking login details etc.)

We know many of you will be reading and thinking “yes I already know about this scam” but we need your help to stop others falling victim. 

Would you make a point to talk about this warning with friends, neighbours and relatives to help us spread the word? 

No-one should let an out-of-the-blue caller have access to their computer. REMEMBER just because somebody on the phone claims to be from a reputable company does not mean they are.

You can print out this page and put it on a noticeboard. Also use the sharing buttons below to let your social media connections know.