Phone tech support scams are skyrocketing, telco warns

Don’t get stung by phone scammers
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01.Sham tech support a scammer's paradise

scam alert sign

Scammers are increasingly contacting Australians over the phone, with Telstra issuing a warning that comments and complaints about phone scams to the telco have increased fourfold.

The tech support impostor scam is still going strong, with Telstra reporting it was the most complained about, despite action taken globally to shut it down. In the scam, customers are called at home and told they need to pay for technical support to fix a problem that doesn't exist on their computer.

The scammers are now targeting Telstra customers, falsely claiming they work for Telstra and demanding remote access to computers. "The people running the phone scam appear to want our customers' identity and in particular their personal banking details," Telstra has warned.

Peter Jamieson from Telstra says: "The criminals operating these scams are trying to sell customers fake software updates, or trick them into disclosing their personal details over the telephone so those details can then be used illegally."

Microsoft scam still operating

The Telstra scam is very similar to the Microsoft scam, which was supposedly shut down in 2012 but seems to have re-emerged; several consumers have complained to CHOICE about being stung. In that scam, overseas call centre staff (often based in India) pose as Microsoft engineers or tech support and call Australians, claiming to have identified either viruses or other issues on their computer. They convince the consumer to grant them remote access to "fix" the issues and demand payment for their bogus IT services.

What do the tech support scams do?

The scammers gain access to a person's computer by obtaining their IP address and enabling remote access, or by sending them to a virus-infested website. They can then alter security or anti-virus settings, change passwords, or add a keystroke logger that records everything typed on the computer, including online banking details. They can then use that information to further scam the consumer.

Consumers around Australia have paid for the sham services using their credit cards, in some cases forking over hundreds of dollars. Refusal to pay may be met with changed passwords to lock you out of your computer.

What to do if you've been scammed

If you've recently paid for unsolicited technical support that has been sold to you over the phone, contact your credit card provider immediately to report it. Depending on how recent the transaction was and the type of payment you've made, you may be able to get a chargeback, or refund, of the amount paid. But you should contact your provider even if the payment was made a while ago – your credit card details may be in the hands of scammers.

Top tips to avoid tech support scams

  1. If you're not sure that the person on the other end of the phone is legitimate, hang up and call the organisation back using their official contact details.
  2. Be wary of sharing personal, credit card or banking details over the phone, unless you've made the call or the phone number came from a trusted source.
  3. Never give an unsolicited caller remote access to your computer.
  4. Make sure your computer is protected with regularly updated anti-virus and anti-spyware software.
  5. Report scams to Scamwatch or call 1300 795 995.


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