Beware of Scammers Call Claiming To Be Scam-Busters, Aussies Warned

April 29, 2019 Updated: April 29, 2019

Scammers have adopted old scams using new technology, tricking Australians out of nearly half a billion dollars last year.

Criminals have found a way to get around people hanging up on annoying computer technical support calls—by claiming to be the ones trying to catch the scammers.

The consumer watchdog says a more elaborate version of the old ‘remote access’ con has caught many Australians off guard, as losses from all forms of scams hit almost half a billion dollars last year.

Most Australians know to hang up when told their computer is infected with a virus and the caller needs remote access to fix the problem.

Now criminals are impersonating police or Telstra staff working with the authorities, claiming the victim’s computer has already been hacked by scammers and they can help track them down.

The victims are tricked into providing access to their computer and sending money so the scammers can be ‘traced’, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s latest scams report said.

One elderly woman lost almost A$30,000 (US$21,200) after being asked to help other pensioners by tracking the flow of money via iTunes cards, the report said.

The money lost to remote access scams almost doubled to A$4.76 million in 2018.

That amount was lost by 881 people, although the total number of remote access scam reports to the ACCC increased by 31 per cent to 11,344.

Overall, Australians lost a record A$489.7 million to scams in 2018, up from the A$340 million reported to the ACCC and other government agencies the previous year.

“These record losses are likely just the tip of the iceberg,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said on Monday.

“We know that not everyone who suffers a loss to a scammer reports it to a government agency.”

Investment scams were again the most harmful financially at A$86 million (up 34 per cent), followed by dating and romance scams at A$60.5 million (up 44 per cent).

Rickard said scammers are adapting old scams to new technology, seeking payment through unusual methods and automating scam calls to increase their reach to potential victims.

The ACCC said tens of thousands of Australians were targeted by automated robo-calls claiming they owed money to the Australian Taxation Office last November.

Most of the 19,455 people who reported scammers threatening arrest, loss of benefits and even deportation did not hand over any money, but 344 people together lost A$3.3 million.