Fraud prevention organisation Financial Fraud Action UK is warning consumers about a new take on the traditional tech-support phone scam. The scammers cold call you and claim that there is a problem with your computer or Internet service that they can help you deal with. They will pose as staff from an Internet service provider, a software company, an anti-virus vendor, or even a law enforcement agency or bank.
To facilitate the supposed fix, the scammers will ask you to give them control of your computer by downloading a remote access application from a website they specify.
In the “usual” form of the scam, the criminals will then demand that you pay an immediate fee with your credit card for their continued help. Via this ruse, the scammers get hold of your credit card details and can use them to conduct fraudulent transactions. And while they are “fixing” your computer, they may also install malware that can later steal your account usernames and passwords and other personal details
But, this version of the scam has a twist. Instead of demanding that you pay them for helping, the scammers will offer YOU money. They will claim that you are eligible for a compensation payment because the computer or Internet problem was their company’s fault. They will ask to immediately transfer the payment to your bank account. They will then ask you to login to your online bank account to check that the funds have arrived. At this point, they may show a doctored screen shot or some sort of fake documentation that makes it appear that the funds have indeed been transferred.
But, the scammers still have access to your computer and, since you are still logged in, they have access to your bank account as well. So, while you are discussing the supposed compensation and checking the fake transfer documents, they can work in the background and steal funds from your account.
In some variations of the scam, the criminals attempt to use you to help them launder the proceeds of crime. In such cases, they WILL actually transfer funds to your account, but the total amount of the transfer will be much more than the compensation payment previously stipulated. Then, the “panicked” scammers will claim that they have just made a major error and transferred far too much by accident. They will beg you to wire the extra money back to them via a money transfer system such as Western Union. They will claim that, if you don’t wire the money, they will lose their jobs and be liable for the extra funds. If you comply, the scammers are thus able to turn funds transferred from hijacked bank accounts into cash and abscond. Meanwhile, police investigations may identify you as the recipient of stolen funds.
Keep in mind that service providers, software companies, or even the police are never likely to cold call you and ask you to give them access to your computer. Be very cautious of any phone call that makes such a request in any form. And, do not give such callers any personal or financial information, even if they become demanding or aggressive. If in doubt, hang up and call the company back to check. But, don’t use a phone number supplied by the caller. Instead, find a contact number via a telephone directory or a company website or letter.
Last updated: November 11, 2015
First published: November 11, 2015
By Brett M. Christensen