Modern technology has brought us many fantastic improvements to our everyday life. Many tools delivered by a smartphone or web browser make our lives significantly easier. While we may take them for granted, they also make it easier for scammers who are looking to drain all the money out of our bank accounts. There is always an upside and a downside to technological progress.
We’d all like to think that we know the warning signs but these scammers continue their work because they work often enough for it to be profitable. The scammers can make a lot of money out of only a very small number of victims. As people wise up to what the scammers are doing, scammers often refine their techniques to improve their strike rate.
If you fall victim to one of these scams, you should never feel bad or guilty. These scammers are getting better at identifying who is more vulnerable and is very good at working out techniques to manipulate them. These scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated.
We might never hope to be able to cover every possible scenario here, however we plan to cover at least the more common techniques which scammers use so people can learn how to protect themselves. If we can save one person from being scammed, it will be worth it,
What forms do scams take?
The basic aim of these scammers is to try and get access to your money. There’s a few common methods that they seem to be employing to try and do this.
The first is via phone. Quite often, this is in the form of a recorded message telling you they’re calling about some sort of order or charge to your account and you can press 1 to speak to someone about it. Other common alternatives are that they’re from a government department and there’s a warrant for your arrest, or that they’ve detected strange activity from your internet connection.
Here’s an example of one that is purporting to be from Amazon regarding an iPhone I apparently ordered.
The way these scams operated is that they’re intended to cause you to panic and speak to one of their “representatives”. It’s this fear response that allows the scam to work and allows them to manipulate their targets. As part of their conversation, they’ll often try and get you to install a remote access tool (such as AnyDesk, TeamViewer or VNC) so they can help you fix the problem. This will allow them to access your computer and ask you to log into your Internet Banking.
Using a few techniques within the web browser, as well as a bit of clever social engineering, they can then “fake it” in such a way that you’re tricked into sending over large amounts of money to the scammer. For instance, if they’re promising to refund your money, they’ll use the developer tools build into most web browsers to add code to your internet banking page to pretend to show the refund and make it look like they’ve refunded too much. They can then require you to pay the fake overpayment back, often by.wire transfer or via gift cards for services such as ITunes or Google Play.
Another common method is an email or text message with a fake link in it. For example, it could be a text message regarding a courier delivery, with a link that purports to help you with tracking the order.
This is how they commonly look.
When you follow the link, you are often taken to a very convincing looking website where you are tricked into entering a whole lot of personal information. Because people tend to reuse a lot of login credentials between different websites, this information can often be sufficient for a scammer to identify who you bank with, as well as the login details for your Internet Banking. This can then allow them to login and clean out your bank account.
Finally, these scams sometimes take the form of a recent event to try and sound more convincing. For example, Australia over the last decade or so have been upgrading to the National Broadband Network, or NBN. A new form of scamming has started where they will make use of this to try and upsell you to a faster speed. They will often help you use a remote access tool such as AnyDesk, TeamViewer or VNC to connect to your machine and pretend to assist you with the upgrade.
These scams are sometimes a bit harder to detect because the scammers have done at least some research into using something that might sound relevant to you. The rule to remember here is that they do not need to access your computer to do the upgrade. Any attempt to install a system such as AnyDesk, TeamViewer or VNC by someone who is not known to you is very likely to be a scam.
What can you do to protect yourself?
There’s a few things you can do to help protect yourself from scammers.
If you receive an unsolicited text message on your phone that contains a link, it is often bad news. Don’t follow the link supplied to you in the text message. Rather, if you think this is regarding a legitimate order, you can contact the vendor directly to find out how best to track the order using the service that you bought the item through.
If you receive a phone call with a recorded message apparently from a government department that sounds threatening, or is about a purchase you don’t remember making, usually the best thing to do is hang up. If you think the call may be legitimate, your best bet is to find contact details for the organisation via another method which you can use to verify whether the call was legitimate. You can often use the official mobile app downloaded from your phone’s app store to track the purchase as well as get the contact details of the company if you want to verify the purchase. You can use this as an alternative way to verify whether the purchase is legitimate.
If one of these calls offers to remotely connect to your computer, don’t do it. Any legitimate company will be able to process everything from their side without needing access to your computer, so wanting access to your computer is a huge red flag that something isn’t right. In particular, watch out for programs like AnyDesk, TeamViewer and VNC. While these programs have legitimate uses, these are ones frequently used by scammers.
What if I think I have been scammed?
Unfortunately these scammers continue to try their scams because they occasionally work. There are a small number of cases where they are successful, and this is how they make their money. If you think you have been scammed, there are a few things that you can do.
Firstly, it is quite common for the scammers to get you to install remote access tools. Common ones are AnyDesk, TeamViewer and VNC. Ideally, you will have recognised the scam before they can install such software onto your computer and hang up. However if you haven’t, these should be immediately uninstalled to prevent any further access to your computer. If they’ve installed them on your computer, you can go to Start -> Settings -> Apps to find and remove the application. If they’ve installed it onto your phone, you can hold your finger down on the icon and you’ll usually get the option to remove it. Once you’re done, restart the device.
Secondly, you should immediately reset the password to your online banking. You should also do the same to your email, as well as any other services that share the same password. If you’re reusing passwords between different services, now would be a time to change that. Now would be a fantastic time to consider using a password manager.
Finally, you can contact your bank and see if they can reverse any suspicious transactions. You should also talk to them about enabling two-factor authentication, which adds another layer of security to protect your account from further unauthorised transactions.
You should also notify police. While it is sometimes difficult for them to take action given the perpetrators are frequently overseas, there may be things they an to do track them down. The information you provide might be the last piece of the puzzle they need.
Scammers are unfortunately a fact of life. They continue because they work enough of the time to be profitable.
We hope with this article it gives some guidance on what to watch out for, as well as tips on how to deal with any times you may have been scammed.
The final piece of advice is never feal stupid or bad because you have been scammed. The scammers constantly use new techniques to try and fool people, and sometimes it’s not easy to pick up on these techniques in the heat of the moment. The scammers are becoming more sophisticated and constantly improve their techniques. The aim of this article is not to make you feel stupid, it’s simply to try and make people more aware of what the scammers are trying to do.