Scammers pretend they're from Telstra, ATO, Centrelink, to steal money
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Scammers pretend they're from Telstra, ATO, Centrelink, to steal money

The guy on the other end of the phone line was very convincing.

"I am from Telstra," he said, when he called someone I know, let's just call him Fred,  urgently demanding he be granted access to Fred's computer.

"There is a problem with your internet," the purported Telstra employee went on to tell Fred.

"Your account has been hacked. Your internet will disconnected in two hours."

Remote access scams are on the rise with the ACCC saying more than 8000 reports were recorded in 2018 so far and losses total $4.4 million.

Remote access scams are on the rise with the ACCC saying more than 8000 reports were recorded in 2018 so far and losses total $4.4 million.Credit:Erin Jonasson

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There began the ordeal for Fred who was scammed into allowing this pretend Telstra employee - in reality a petty criminal -to access his computer and bank account details in one afternoon.

He sold Fred a story about how he needed access to his computer to catch a hacker in action.

Telstra was here to help, the scammer said. The company would stop the hacker getting access to his bank funds if he'd just hand over his personal and bank details.

Fred did not have any funds in his main bank account, so he did not think it would be a big deal to grant access. But Fred had forgotten he had $2000 sitting in another account linked to his main account.

More than 200,000 scam reports were submitted to government agencies in 2017. 

More than 200,000 scam reports were submitted to government agencies in 2017. Credit:Louie Douvis

He was duped when the scammer - who pretended to deposit money into Fred's account - in fact just shifted the $2000 between Fred's accounts, and then out of Fred's account and into his own.

By the time Fred realised, it was too late. The money was gone.

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According to Australia's consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Fred is not alone is being scammed in this way.

The ACCC says its scamwatch website has recorded a significant spike in these types of scams, known as remote access scams, with more than 8000 reports recorded in 2018 so far, and losses of $4.4 million.

It reports scams are also hurting thousands of small businesses, which have reported losses of more than $2.3 million dollars in 2018 so far.

When taking all types of scams reported to the agency last year, Australians lost $340 million - a $40 million increase compared to 2016 and more than in any other year since the ACCC began reporting on scam activity.

Its "Targeting scams" report said more than more than 200,000 scam reports were submitted to the ACCC, Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) and other federal and state-based government agencies in 2017.

Investment scams topped the losses at $64 million, an increase of more than 8 per cent. Dating and romance scams caused the second greatest losses at $42 million.

People aged between 55 to 64 are most often the victims reporting scams.

People aged between 55 to 64 are most often the victims.

Scammers call pretending to be the Tax Office and threaten the individual with immediate arrest if the person they're targeting doesn't hand over details. They claim they're from Centrelink and won't pay the individual money if they don't comply with their demands.

And as in Fred's case, scammers impersonate well-known businesses like Telstra or Microsoft, or the police, so they can get access to computers and steal money or banking information.

ACCC deputy chairman Delia Rickard said some people are also tricked into providing iTunes gift card numbers over the phone to scammers.

ACCC deputy chairman Delia Rickard said some people are also tricked into providing iTunes gift card numbers over the phone to scammers.

ACCC deputy chairman Delia Rickard said some people are also tricked into providing iTunes gift card numbers over the phone to scammers.

Once the victim's hooked, and if they start to doubt the situation, the scammer will become threatening, she said.

This is exactly what happened to Fred.

Fred had doubted the scammer all along, but each time he asked the scammer questions, the scammer would become more aggressive and sell another story to get him hooked into his 'I'm here to help you' fairytale again. If Fred resisted giving details, the scammer would say, 'then I can't help you, your internet will be disconnected'.

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He even gave Fred a fake Telstra phone number to call to verify he was who he said he was. He told Fred to call this landline number and he would be able to verify with his manager that the scammer was who he said he was -  Alan Parker, from Telstra in Melbourne. Of course, he's not Alan Parker. Alan Parker does not exist.

The uphsot of all this, Ms Rickard says, is never hand over personal details to anyone you do not know.

“If you receive a phone call out of the blue about your computer and remote access is requested, it’s a scam 100 per cent of the time," she says. "Just hang up.”

I wish Fred had.