How to protect yourself from hacking and other remote control computer scams
Updated: Apr 6
To most people it may seem that telephone and computer scams come around in waves.
From my perspective, as a computing professional, these things are always around and always happening.
In 2017 it was only $340 million, so things are getting worse, not better.
I am pleading with you here today to read my advice below and remember it for when, not if, you get a phone call from one of these scammers.
Because I can’t always fix the computer problems these scammers cause and I definitely can’t get back your money or peace of mind, I strongly urge you to be warned and be prepared.
Don’t be scared. Don’t panic. Just follow my simple advice below and you will be OK.
Also, please spread this advice as far and wide as possible. Tell your old folks, tell your friends.
If you receive a phone call, or a message pops up on your computer screen with a number to call, telling you that you have a computer problem, an NBN problem, an internet problem or that you’ve been “hacked” in some way...
...do the following IMMEDIATELY:
1 - HANG UP / DON'T CALL THE NUMBER 2 - POWER DOWN YOUR COMPUTER 3 - CALL SOMEONE YOU TRUST FOR HELP
4 - CALL YOUR BANK.
That is as simple as I, or anyone else, can make it.
However, to elaborate on point 1 it is vital to your security and your peace of mind that you DON’T engage these people in ANY conversation. Just hang up.
Don’t say anything, don’t answer any questions, tell them nothing, confirm nothing they say.
Just hang up.
Once you have started talking they've got you. They will keep talking and harassing you UNTIL YOU STOP - you'll crack first. They'll persist, threaten, ask you to go to the bank, all sorts of rubbish, all as long as you keep talking to them. So don't. Just hang up. If you really fancy trying to STOP the calls, simply say "This call is being traced by the police". That usually scares them enough to stop calling.
In a disturbing addendum to this point about not talking to the perpetrators, a customer of mine was recently advised BY THEIR BANK to call a fraudster and ask for their money back because "it is worth a try".
I can't tell you how angry this makes me. That advice is plain wrong, negligent and dangerous.
I was so angry that I rang the bank in question and told them off.
Imagine if you were mugged on the street and the police told you to track down your mugger and ask for the money back.
Of course you wouldn't do it because it is clearly dangerous and wrong. So don't ring back any other sort of fraudster. If your moronic bank tells you to do so then please tell me so I can deal with them!
Regarding point 2, chances are you don't know what they've done.
If you’ve twigged part way through that you are being scammed or hacked, maybe your computer is already being controlled remotely, TURN OFF your computer immediately.
Switch it off at the wall socket if you have to.
Shutting your computer down improperly matters less than what the scammers are doing.
Powering off your computer means NOTHING more can happen. Turn off your modem and other computers and tablets as well if you fancy. It can't hurt. Leaving the "hacked" computer on means that the scammers could well still be doing things.
The last time I posted this information I received a technical question about “how powering down a computer can matter when the person has only received a phone call”? Unfortunately that assumes that we know what has really happened. While people may have "only received a call", many have done a lot more and don't always reveal that up front to even the people they trust for fear of embarrassment.
Also, many people are told by the scammers that they already have control of their computer even though they don’t. Sometimes they may, but usually they don’t. Rather than guessing wrong and being scared, just turn off your computer.
The "power down" point is about handling all possibilities quickly and as thoroughly as possibly regardless of what we know :-)
Regarding point 3, call your son or daughter or some other trusted technology expert. Don't crack and think that "maybe they (the scammers) are right – maybe I do have a computer problem" and turn your computer back on.
GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR COMPUTER PERSON ASAP and WAIT for them to call you back if they don’t answer right away. Seriously. WAIT!!! Don't get stressed and turn your computer back. Leave it off. If you can't get hold of anyone, LEAVE YOUR COMPUTER OFF AND WAIT for help to call you back!! Real help, your known friend - not the scammers, obviously. These scammers pray on your lack of computer expertise and fear, so stop them before they get started and definitely don’t give them a second chance.
Regarding point 4, if you even slightly suspect that the scammers have got near your bank account details, call your bank and put a block on your accounts ASAP!
Lastly, you need to know and trust the fact that TELSTRA, AUSTRALIA POST, MICROSOFT, THE NBN, THE ATO, THE FEDERAL POLICE, ASIO etc. simple DO NOT call you in this way.
They also DON'T put numbers on your screen and ask you to call them.
If you get a call or message from anyone, ANYONE, asking for access to your computer, your bank or asking for personal details REGARDLESS of who they say they are, HANG UP. Don’t let your honesty and politeness help them make you a victim.
Everything they are saying is lies. Full stop. End of discussion.
If you must put your mind at ease, ring them back on your terms e.g. if it was “TELSTRA” ringing you, look up the Telstra phone number and call them directly (because calling the real number won’t put you in contact with the scammer who just called you from somewhere else).
Tell them you’ve been phoned and ask if you really have a problem. I can tell you what their answer will be “We didn’t call. We never will. It was a scam”. Remember, a computer with no power and unanswered phone calls STOP SCAMMERS DEAD! These 4 steps are the simplest and safest way to deal with "hacking" phone call and other remote control internet scams. Please SHARE this information with all your relatives and friends.
More information is available on my blog:
David Moore – PC Wrangler at I Hate My PC.
www.idcare.org Phone: 1300 432 273