One of the main ways that cybercriminals try and gain access to your personal information is by impersonating well-known and trusted organisations. After all, if your telecommunications provider is Telstra and a Telstra representative calls you and says there’s something wrong with your computer, you are probably going to trust them — aren’t you?
Well, the answer should be no.
A remote access scam is when a criminal impersonates an organisation and calls you to say that they have been notified of an issue with your internet or computer device. They will say that it’s a serious problem but they can fix it — providing that you install software on your computer that gives them remote access.
Once you have done so (while they stay on the line), they typically confirm that they have isolated the ‘problem’ and require a fee to have it fixed.
Sometimes, this is as far as this online scam goes. You pay the fee and they ‘fix’ the non-existent problem.
In other situations, granting the scammer remote access can result in malware being installed on your computer. This malware might be able to track your keystrokes, providing the criminal with all of your personal details. Or maybe it will be a form of ransomware, and the scammer will take all of your personal information hostage until you pay another fee.
By now, you’ve probably realised that granting someone remote access to your computer is not a good idea.
Why would a criminal want my personal information?
There are many uses that an online criminal has for your personal information. Unfortunately, none of them are good news.
Typically, the kind of personal details that a cybercriminal is after includes your:
• Full name
• Date of birth
• Physical address
• Email address
• Driver’s license number
• Tax file number
• Medicare card details
• Passport information
• Online account login information
This information can be used for a range of purposes. Often, cybercriminals upload personal details to dark web forums, where they can be sold to other scammers. In other situations, a criminal may attempt to take out a large loan in your name or open a new credit card account.
Whatever the case, you can be sure that your personal information being in the hands of criminals is not a situation you want to be in.
Protect yourself from identity theft with these top tips
Always be wary of calls that you receive from people claiming to represent official organisations. Scammers know that this is a great way to get people to share personal information that they can then use for their own purposes. Aside from following this golden rule, there are a range of other strategies you can use to protect yourself online:
• Be wary of what you download: Never download anything from the internet unless you are confident that it is from a reputable source. Dodgy downloads are often ridden with malware that can infect your device, rendering it useless.
• Protect yourself with passwords: Strong, unique passwords are the best way to protect your information. Ideally, your password should be made from a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
Be sure to use a different password for each of your accounts and if you struggle to remember your passwords, consider using an encrypted password manager. Don’t keep them recorded in the Notes section of your computer, where they can be easily accessed in a hack.
• Use dark web monitoring: Dark web monitoring is a relatively new type of security software that can alert you should your information end up on the dark web. The unfortunate reality of the dark web is that it’s practically impossible to have your information removed once it has been posted there.
But simply having the knowledge that your details are out there means that you can take appropriate steps to mitigate the damage — such as changing your passwords and cancelling your credit cards.
• Install security software: If you are targeted in a remote access scam and have reputable security software installed, you will be instantly alerted to the fact that you are potentially putting your device and personal information in danger. Security software will protect against viruses, malware, phishing scams, and remote hacking — in short, it’s a tool you simply can’t do without.
Someone you don’t know wanting to gain access to your computer should prompt instant alarm bells. If you receive a call from someone claiming to represent a trusted company, often the best thing to do is hang up and call their official phone number to check that the inquiry is legitimate.
And if something really is wrong with your computer, take it to a professional repair service rather than trusting a stranger on the other end of a suspicious phone call.