Digital Fraud Education: How to avoid a Remote Computer Access Scam
Tech support has come a long way, but that also means more open doors for scammers to walk through and take over your system, steal your identity, or access your financial accounts. And that means whenever someone asks you for remote access to your computer – whether it be to fix your computer, help you deal with a legal issue, give you a refund, or anything else – always say no. Why? Well, we’re going to cover that right here.
WHY IS IT A BAD IDEA TO ALLOW SOMEONE TO ACCESS MY COMPUTER REMOTELY?
Hacker hand using keyboard typing bad data into laptop computer online system and spreading to global stolen personal information, fingerprint.
Put simply, scammers are good at what they do, and once they get access to your computer, your identity and your finances are in trouble. And it all starts with scammers pretending to be from a well-known company while calling, texting, or emailing you to convince you that you need their help because they found an issue with your computer, an issue with your financial accounts, they want to issue you a refund for something, they want to help you with a legal issue, or something along those lines. Once they get your attention, they’ll ask you to give them remote access to your computer. And once that happens, they download malware, which gives them the ability to see everything on your computer – your online banking login information, passwords, personal documents, photographs, and everything else.
After gaining access, scammers will usually either “refund” you too much by “mistake” or demand you pay them for what they “fixed” for you. In the case of a “refund,” they’ll ask you to pay someone these “overpayment” funds that are now in your account by showing you a fake screenshot of your online banking accounts to “prove” the money is in there – though the funds are usually transferred between your own accounts. Then, they may ask you to send funds via wire, gift card, money transfer app, or virtual currency because they know those types of payments can be difficult to reverse. You send the funds the way they are requesting, only to find out later that the money sent was your own and you’re out the payment you sent.
LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT AN EXAMPLE
A consumer was contacted by someone from a popular antivirus company and was told her subscription was about to expire. The consumer did not have a subscription with that particular company, however, so she ignored them. The “representatives” from this company were relentless and, eventually, they started calling the consumer saying they accidentally withdrew funds from her account and they needed to return the money. To return the money, they needed access to her computer. They were going to refund her $399.99. When the consumer allowed access to her computer, a pop-up box appeared, and the consumer was told to enter $399.99 in this pop-up box. The consumer did as she was instructed, and suddenly $39,999 appeared in her checking account. The “representative” started accusing the consumer of stealing $39,999, insisting the consumer pay this money back. The consumer was told to go to her financial institution and wire $19,000 to an individual whose information was given to her by the “representative.” The next day, the consumer went to a different location to withdraw $20,000 in cash and sent the cash overnight via UPS to a different individual, as instructed by the “representative.” They told the consumer she could keep $999 for her troubles.
After the consumer allowed access to her computer, she could no longer log into her digital banking and was unable to see her transactions because the screen turned black. The consumer later realized the $39,999 the “representative” was referring to ended up being a transfer between the consumer’s own accounts and that she sent $39,000 of her own money.
Now, the consumer is out $39,000, her accounts are compromised, and she needs to take her computer in to get it checked for malware or a virus.
HOW THIS SITUATION COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED AND QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
Here are some tips to avoid similar situations:
- Legitimate companies won’t contact you by phone, email, or text to tell you there’s a problem. However, fraud agents can now spoof phone numbers to make it appear to be a call from a company. So, if you are contacted by someone you don’t expect, don’t answer!
- Why would the representative need access to your computer to refund the money? Why would they make you enter your own refund? No legitimate company would do any of this, which is why you should never allow remote access to your computer.
- Why would you be wiring or sending money to an individual if you were truly having to pay a company back? You wouldn’t and you shouldn’t. Never send money to someone you don’t know!
- What should you do if you fall victim to this type of scam? If you feel your computer has been compromised, shut it down and unplug it before taking it in to be checked by a reputable IT company. If you feel your financial accounts have been compromised, immediately notify our friendly Fox staff so we can help you secure your identity and your finances.
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Fox Communities Credit Union is a full-service, not-for-profit financial institution serving members throughout Eastern Wisconsin, including Appleton, Green Bay, Oshkosh, Manitowoc, and Milwaukee.