The increase in such scams has resulted in more than $7.2 million being stolen this year, a 184 per cent increase from last year.
Almost 6,500 individuals have now reported such scams, which see scammers attempt to convince victims to download software that gives access to home computers and their bank accounts.
Commonly called remote access scams, this type of scam is where scammers pretend to be from well-known organisations such as Telstra, eBay, NBN Co, Amazon, banks, government organisations, police, and computer and IT support organisations.
“Remote access scams are one of the largest-growing scam types in Australia. Scammers take advantage of the digital world and the fear of fraud and cyber crime to access people’s devices and steal their money,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said.
“These types of scams target and impact all people and can be convincing. People aged 55 and older lost over $4.4 million, accounting for almost half of total losses.
“Young people reported losing on average $20,000 and eight Indigenous Australians, some in remote communities, lost a total of $38,000.”
How it works
According to the ACCC, scammers often ring up and create a sense of urgency by saying that you have been billed for a purchase you didn’t make, that your device has been compromised or your account has been hacked.
They then proceed to ask you to download remote control software such as AnyDesk or TeamViewer to assist them in their phony investigations.
Once these remote access tools are installed, scammers may be able to gain access to the victim’s emails as well as their banking and personal information.
The warning from the ACCC comes as Australians continue to work from home, especially those in New South Wales who are facing an extended period of lockdowns.
“It is really important not to let anyone who contacts you out of the blue access your devices, as once you give them access, you have no way of knowing what the person will do to your computer or what programs they may install,” Ms Rickard said.
“If you receive contact from someone claiming to be from a telecommunications company, a technical support service provider or online marketplace, hang up.
“If you think the communication may have been legitimate, independently source the contact details for the organisation to contact them. Don’t use the contact details in the communication. Also, don’t click on any of the links.”
Record losses trending
The ACCC’s latest report on scams in 2020 revealed a record $851 million being lost to scams in a single year.
It found that scammers capitalised on the COVID-19 pandemic, with investment scams accounting for the biggest losses at $328 million.
Romance scams were next on the list at $131 million, while business email compromise or payment redirection scams were the third most damaging scam, resulting in $128 million of losses.
The ATO was the most commonly impersonated government agency, with 96,220 scams reported to the Tax Office. Nearly 500 people lost money to such scams, totalling nearly $2.4 million, a 12 per cent increase from 2019.
Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.
Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.