“Remote access” computer scams on the rise locally

During the COVID-19 pandemic, all types of cybercrime have increased substantially. In particular, the “remote access” scam appears to be on the rise in Nova Scotia recently, which involves tricking victims into giving cyber criminals remote access to their computers.

The scam typically starts with the unsuspecting victim receiving an email, phone call, or pop-up window advising that an issue or virus has been detected on their computer. Cyber criminals are very manipulative and can sound convincing, especially to a less tech-savvy victim. The cyber criminal, who identifies themselves as a tech support employee of a large computer or cyber security company, will request that you download software to allow them access to your computer in order to “fix” the issue. If the software is downloaded, and the cyber criminal is given remote access to your computer, they may gain the ability to perform tasks such as making purchases, installing malware, downloading/uploading files, and stealing other sensitive/private data, including banking information. 

Cyber criminals may also ask for payment to be made for “fixing” your computer. If malware is installed during the process, the cyber criminals may have undetected access to your computer and files long after the remote access session has finished. This could lead to other cybercrimes, such as ransomware attacks or sextortion-type scams.      

How can you prevent this?   

This scam is easy to prevent when you know what to look for. Tech support will never cold call or email you to advise of a computer issue. If this happens, it’s almost certainly a scam. If you receive a pop-up window while on your computer requesting that you call tech support, and subsequently receive a request for remote access to your computer, it’s almost certainly a scam. At minimum, it is recommended that if you receive this type of phone call, email, or pop-up, you do your due diligence and inquire through the company’s official website before contacting a potential cyber criminal.

If you believe there is an issue with your computer, it is best to bring it in person to a reputable computer repair company. Additionally, you should never give out your passwords to anyone over the phone or computer, and always keep your computer software up to date. These tips will help protect you from many types of scams, including the “remote access” scam.

This has happened to me, what do I do?     

If you believe you may be a victim of this scam, contact your local police and check out the RCMP Victim Assistance Guide (http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/scams-fraudes/victims-guide-victimes-eng.htm).

As malware may have been installed onto your computer, it is important that you power off your computer and have it examined by a computer technician. You should also change important passwords and notify your banking institution.  

For more information on various types of scams, visit https://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/scams-fraudes/index-eng.htm.

Source: Release #notw

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