More than £50 million was lost last year to scams where victims are tricked into handing over control of their computer or smartphone to criminals.
New data from Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, reveals that 20,144 people fell victim to scams where they were persuaded to grant criminals remote access to their device. Victims reported losing a total of £57,790,384 – an average loss of £2,868 per victim.
What are remote access tool scams?
Remote access tool scams will often begin with a browser pop-up saying that your computer is infected with a virus, or with a call from someone claiming to be from your bank saying that they need to connect to your computer in order to cancel a fraudulent transaction on your account.
Criminals will try to persuade the victim to download and connect via a remote access tool, which allows the criminal to gain access to the victims computer or mobile phone. If the victim allows the criminal connection via the tool, they are able to steal money and access the victim’s banking information.
Detective Chief Inspector Craig Mullish, from the City of London Police, said: “While remote access tools are safe when used legitimately, we want the public to be aware that they can be misused by criminals to perpetrate fraud. We often see criminals posing as legitimate businesses in order to trick people into handing over control of their computer or smartphone.
“You should only install software or grant remote access to your computer if you’re asked by someone you know and trust, such as a friend or family member, and never as a result of an unsolicited call, browser pop-up or text message.”
In one case, a victim lost over £20,000 after they received a call from someone claiming to be from Sky stating that there was a problem with their Sky box. The suspect persuaded the victim to download a remote access tool to their device which enabled the suspect to access the victim’s online banking and make a number of transfers to an account under the suspect’s control.
Another victim lost over £1,000 after they received a call from someone claiming to be from Amazon stating that they were processing a payment for an Amazon Prime membership. The victim told the suspect that they hadn’t subscribed to Amazon Prime but clicked on a link provided by the suspect to cancel the membership. The link downloaded a remote access tool to their device which enabled the suspect to access the victim’s online banking and empty their account.
The warning comes as Action Fraud launched a new national awareness campaign this week to increase awareness around the safe use of remote access tools and to remind the public to think twice before allowing somebody you don’t know access to your device.
How to protect yourself
- Only install software or grant remote access to your computer if you’re asked by someone you know and trust, such as a friend or family member, and never as a result of an unsolicited call, browser pop up, or text message.
- Remember, a bank or service provider will never contact you out of the blue requesting remote access to your device.
- If you believe your laptop, PC, tablet or phone has been infected with a virus or some other type of malware, follow the NCSC’s guidance on recovering an infected device.
- Protect your money by contacting your bank immediately on a different device from the one the scammer contacted you on.
- Report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via police.uk. If you are in Scotland, report to Police Scotland directly by calling 101.