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Urgent warning over scam 'draining entire bank accounts'

Aussies lost $17,943 on average to remote access scams in the first quarter of this year.

Aussies are being warned to watch out for a scam that tricks victims into thinking they are getting help “fixing” their account, computer or phone. In reality, scammers are using this excuse to gain access to their bank accounts.

An alert has been issued by the Australian Competition and Consumer (ACCC) following a recent spike in remote access scam losses. Reported losses skyrocketed by 52 per cent in the first quarter of 2024, with the average scam victim losing $17,943.

In total, Aussies reported losing $15.5 million to remote access scams in 2023 and people over the age of 65 suffered the biggest losses.

Scammer hacking into computer.
The consumer watchdog said scammers will often call people out of the blue and can sound professional. (Source: Getty)

“We are very concerned scammers are draining entire bank accounts, with average losses to remote access scams now in the tens of thousands,” ACCC deputy chair Catriona Lowe said.

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“Financial criminals use sophisticated emails, web-based pop-up messages and phone calls to impersonate well-known companies such as Microsoft to deceive people into thinking there is a problem with their account, computer or phone that needs fixing.”

Scammers will often call people out of the blue and sound professional over the phone. They'll ask you to download screen-sharing software, such as AnyDesk, Zoho or Teamviewer, which then allows them to gain access to your bank accounts.

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“Never download software or apps if directed to by someone over the phone and never share banking information, passwords or two-factor identification codes,” Lowe said.

The consumer watchdog noted that the increase in scam losses is actually in contrast to most other scam types, which have seen a drop in losses over the same period.

In a recent scam reported to Bendigo Bank, the fraudster went so far as to create a fake LinkedIn profile in a bid to gain the victim’s trust.

They claimed to work for a company the victim was familiar with.

Bendigo Bank's head of customer fraud and scam protection, Jason Gordon, said scammers would use “every trick in the book” to try to gain access to people’s phones or computers.

“Once access is granted, scammers may install malicious software, steal sensitive information, or initiate unauthorised transactions, leaving victims and their bank accounts vulnerable,” Gordon said.

“If you did not originate the call and you’re being asked for information or to enable remote access, hang up!”

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Aussies lost $2.7 billion to scams last year, with 601,000 cons reported to authorities, according to a new report from the Australian Anti Scam Centre.

That's down from a record $3.1 billion the year previous, however, the number of scams reported went up by 18.5 per cent. Over 65s were the hardest hit and only group to take a higher loss in the last year.

Investment scams are the most prolific, with $1.3 billion lost, followed by remote access scams and romance scams.

Scamwatch warns to beware of the following scenarios:

  • It’s an amazing opportunity to make or save money

  • Someone you haven’t met needs your help - and money

  • The message contains links or attachments

  • You feel pressured to act quickly

  • They ask you to pay in an unusual or specific way

  • They ask you to set up new accounts or Pay ID

Contact your bank and report the scam. Ask them to stop transactions and stop sending any money.

Report the scam to Scamwatch here and make an official complaint to police here.

Watch out for follow up scams, particularly ones promising they can get your money back. Scamwatch warned one in three victims of a scam are scammed more than once.

Lastly, get support for yourself. You can talk to a financial counsellor or reach out to BeyondBlue on 1300 22 4636 or here for an online chat or Lifeline for crisis support online here on 13 11 14.

You can also contact IDCARE to “reduce the harm they experience from the compromise and misuse of their identity information by providing effective response and mitigation”.