In a remote access scam, a scammer attempts to persuade you into giving them remote control over your personal computer, which allows the scammer to con money out of you and steal your private information. If a scammer gets into your computer remotely, they could:
- Get into your hard drive for sensitive data, passwords, and photos. Scammers will quickly collect anything they can use to withdraw money from bank accounts or steal your identity
- Install invasive malware or spyware. Scammers can establish ongoing access to your computer without you even knowing it. They do this by installing add-ons or programs onto your computer that continually steal sensitive information or mask what they’re doing behind the scenes.
- Hold your information hostage. Hackers can download what’s called “ransomware” onto your computer. It locks all your files unless you pay a ransom.
How to prevent these scams
- Remember that tech support specialists from companies and government departments never cold call people, so if you receive a call seeming to be from computer tech support, it’s a scam. It’s easy for hackers to spoof their caller ID, so even if it looks to be coming from a legitimate source, keep this in mind.
- If you see a pop-up or virus warning on your computer advising you to call a number, it’s a scam. Some of these pop-ups have code that make them hard to close, so if a pop-up is staying stubbornly open, you can force your Internet browser to close by hitting Ctrl + Alt + Delete and opening the Task Manager if you’re using Windows, or Command + Option + Escape if you’re on a Mac.
- Most importantly, never give remote access to anyone you don’t know, as doing so lets them bypass a great deal of your cybersecurity.
What to do if you’ve been scammed
If you have fallen victim of a remote access scam, call your bank at a trusted number immediately. Check for unauthorized charges and dispute them. Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at ReportFraud.FTC.gov and file a report with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. This will help authorities protect others from the same scam. Fixing any damage done to your computer can be more difficult, as digital threats are constantly evolving to escape detection. Call the support number for the computer that you are using for assistance.