Consumer watchdog the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is warning people to watch out for dodgy internet pop-up windows claiming there are viruses or other nasty tech problems affecting their computer.
Known as remote access scams, these pop-up windows are used as a ploy to lure unsuspecting victims to call a fake support line – usually a 1800 number. The scammer will then ask for remote access to their victim’s computer to “find out what the problem is”.
“Once a scammer has remote access to your computer they can install malicious software, steal your personal data, con you into paying for a ‘service’ for your PC, or sell you unnecessary software to fix a problem that doesn’t exist,” the ACCC’s Delia Rickard said.
“These scammers are very convincing and sound like they’re the real deal when talking about tech issues. The pop-ups they create to lure people in look legitimate and are often made to imitate trusted websites for brands like Microsoft and Apple.”
Ms Rickard said Scamwatch had already received an average of 300 reports a month about this scam so far in 2017, with more than $41,000 lost. Australians aged 45 and over were most likely to encounter and lose money to this scam.
“These pop-ups can often freeze your computer and clicking the close button on your browser might not work. This tricks people into thinking there really is a problem and calling the fake support line for help. Your first and best line of defence against this scam is to not call that number and close the pop-up if possible,” Ms Rickard said.
“Affected users can close the pop up manually through Windows Task Manager (for PC users) or by using the Activity Monitor (for Mac users). If this fails to work, they can also shut down and restart their computer.
“If you do call the number never give a stranger - no matter how legitimate they sound - remote access to your computer,” Ms Rickard said.
“If you think you’ve been caught by this scam, call your bank immediately and let them know what happened, to protect your personal bank and/or credit card details. If your credit card was charged for sham software or servicing, you can try to get your money back.”
Ms Rickard also urged consumers to read the ACCC’s Little Black Book of Scams publication, which contains information about how to spot and avoid scams and to keep one step ahead of scammers.
The Little Black Book of Scams is available from the ACCC website.