Jun 01, 2022

New scam warning after elderly couple lose thousands of dollars

New NBN scam warning

What followed was a seven-hour saga that has left the elderly couple – aged in their 70s – $5045 worse off and wondering who they can trust. 

Speaking to 9News, Peter said, “It’s very embarrassing, particularly when you normally pick these things and this was such a bizarre kind of experience.”

The man instructed Catherine that NBN engineers had been in the region and a virus had been identified on their home electronics, both the family laptop and Catherine’s mobile.

“He said there was an engineer on his way, he was just up the road. He has been held up, but would be there soon,” Peter recalled.

“He talked quite a bit about the NBN office in Mount Street, North Sydney and how they worked out of there.

“There was that sort of chat, it seemed to make it more convincing.”

The initial call came when Peter was out, and as directed by the man on the phone, Catherine downloaded a free remote access software called TeamViewer onto the family laptop.

While the man kept calling, Catherine began to feel increasingly uneasy and eventually deleted the software. 

Peter had returned home, and the man directed him to download the same app on his phone. 

The Sydney-sider, while still talking to the man, searched the name of the app and thought it to be legitimate. 

TeamViewer is a free, remote access software that is used by many, lawfully around the globe. 

However, the company does have a disclaimer making customers aware that there have been many instances of scammers using the software to access victim’s personal devices and siphon away funds. 

The website states, “We advise TeamViewer users to be careful with unsolicited phone calls and to not grant access to your devices (e.g. PC or mobile) to anyone you do not know or trust.”

The man stayed on the line after Peter had downloaded the software on his phone, “troubleshooting” a series of “problems”. 

“We were thinking it must be fair dinkum, otherwise why would he have been spending so much time on this,” Peter shared.

The man then said the viruses had been found, however, “the lines” needed to have further work done.

“This sounds so stupid now, telling it later,” Peter admitted.

“We were told there was going to be radiation in the computer.

“So off we went and did that.” 

The man told the couple not to go near the laptop or their mobiles until later the following day, when they would be contacted again. 

Feeling uneasy, Peter checked his emails early the next morning. 

He discovered that he had numerous emails from the Commonwealth Bank alerting him to likely fraudulent activity relating to their bank accounts. 

The scammer had been able to infiltrate the couple’s bank account online, adjusting their withdrawal limit from $2,000 to $20,000. 

Two transactions had gone through, $45 and a further withdrawal of $5000. A third transaction of $15,000 had been stopped by the bank. 

Peter revealed that he has been told by the Commonwealth Bank the couple are not likely to get refunded for the two transactions, as the bank cannot trace the receiver. 

The Commonwealth Bank says that it is not possible to comment on unique cases for privacy reasons. 

A spokesperson noted, “We are always very concerned when we are made aware of frauds and scams affecting customers and the wider community. 

“Where a customer has been scammed, we will work tirelessly with the relevant parties to attempt to recover any remaining funds for them.”

Peter said that being a victim to a scam has been an incredibly stressful experience and has left him and Catherine uneasy.

Scams using remote access are rising

Experts have seen that remote access strategies and scams, such as those requiring victims to download the relevant software like TeamView, have been circulating for a number of years. 

NSW Police posted a warning about them in 2019. 

Cybercrime Squad commander, detective superintendent Matt Craft, noted at the time, “These types of scams are becoming more frequent as scammers take advantage of new technology, products and services to convince the community to provide their personal information.”

However, the prevalence of such remote scams is only increasing. 

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Scamwatch has identified that roughly $8.6 million has been fleeced from victims through remote access this year alone. 

Data shows that the eye-watering amount of funds stolen through remote access strategic crimes has more than tripled over the previous three years, rising a staggering $11.6 million, from $4.8 million in 2019 to $16.4 million in 2021.

Avoiding scams

Thankfully there are resources compiled from experts, providing practical assistance on how to avoid scams. Scamwatch‘s top tips are a helpful resource to use to prevent you and your loved ones becoming the next victim: 

  • Do not open suspicious texts, pop-up windows or click on links or attachments in emails – delete them: If unsure, verify the identity of the contact through an independent source such as a phone book or online search. Don’t use the contact details provided in the message sent to you.
  • Don’t respond to phone calls about your computer asking for remote access – hang up – even if they mention a well-known company such as Telstra. Scammers will often ask you to turn on your computer to fix a problem or install a free upgrade, which is actually a virus that will give them your passwords and personal details.
  • Keep your mobile devices and computers secure. Always use password protection, don’t share access with others (including remotely), update security software and back up content. Protect your WiFi network with a password and avoid using public computers or WiFi hotspots to access online banking or provide personal information.
  • Choose your passwords carefully. Choose passwords that would be difficult for others to guess and update them regularly. A strong password should include a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Don’t use the same password for every account/profile, and don’t share your passwords with anyone.
  • Be wary of unusual payment requests. Scammers will often ask you to use an unusual payment method, including preloaded debit cards, gift cards, iTunes cards or virtual currency such as Bitcoin.

 

*Not their real names.

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  1. Very sad and unfortunate for those folks. But even when alarm bells did ring for them they continued. of course the scammer persisted he could see easy pickings

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