We receive thousands of reports from across New Zealand of people being cold called by scammers pretending to offer help to people with a slow or infected computer.
How does the scam work?
These scammers use the names of familiar brands such as Microsoft, Spark, Vodafone and Chorus when they contact people, so that people are more likely to trust them. They may call you on the phone and will often attempt to get ‘remote access’ to your device. Remote access is when someone can access a computer or a network from another location.
Excuses scammers use to gain ‘remote access’ to devices include
- A virus infection harming others on the network
- A free assessment to upgrade to Windows 10
- Help security checking your computer
- The disconnection of your internet if you do not give access
- Problems with your router or internet connections
At times these scammers may also reach out using ‘pop up’ messages on your screen instead of calling on the phone.
The most common company name used in these scams is Microsoft. Microsoft will never call customers at home about issues with a device, and will never ask for your passwords or other private information.
What can they do with remote access?
If you give the scammers remote access to your device they may
- Try to make you believe that your device is infected or needs cleaning to speed it up – they will then try to sell you software or a support contract.
- Try to charge you for free security software they are installing – you can use our guide to selecting anti-virus and anti-spyware security software to protect your computer.
- They may be able to record your banking login, credit card information or personal details for identity fraud or theft.
- They may install rogue software like Trojans or keyloggers to record your computer use and gain your login information for online banking, auction sites and more
What are the scammers trying to do?
The scammers may be trying to
- Get your online banking details, or other money transfer service details
- Get you to pay for a fake security check or service contract
- Get your credit card details, or ask you to make payment another way (for example, gift cards like Prezzy Cards)
- Request personal information such as copies of passports or drivers licenses that they can use for identity fraud
What to do if you’re contacted
- Be wary if you are unexpectedly contacted about a tech problem that you haven’t proactively contacted your provider about
- Politely say “no thanks” and hang up the phone – you may need to do this a few times
- Don’t engage in a conversation, try to ‘trick’ the scammer or tell them off – you may be put on a ‘harass’ list
- If you’re unsure whether it is a scammer or a legitimate organisation, hang up and call the organisation using the official helpline number
Report cold calling scams to us at netsafe.org.nz/report to help us keep track of scam trends in New Zealand. We’ll use this information to educate people about scams, and to help people who have been affected by them.
What to do if you’ve given remote access
If you gave the scammers remote access to your device, there are four steps you should take.
1.Turn off your computer and disconnect your device from the internet immediately. You can do this by powering the device off and turning off your WiFi router at the power point. This will stop the scammers from having remote access to your device.
2. Change ALL your passwords from a DIFFERENT computer.
That is banking passwords, social networking sites like Facebook , email passwords, any trading accounts like TradeMe, anything else like TAB, etc. This is just to be sure that the scammers cannot use your accounts. Learn how to choose a strong password here.
3. Run a full security scan to see if there is any new malware on the computer. If the scammers had access to your device, they may have installed malware on it. Malware is a piece of software that can be put on to a device to damage, harm or gain unauthorised access to a computer system. If you think there may be malware on your device you can talk to an IT specialist who can confirm if there is and get rid of it for you.
4. Notify your bank if you use online banking as they may have been able to access bank details or credit card account. Keep an eye on your accounts and check statements for rogue purchases over the coming months.
5. If you’re still concerned that something may have been loaded onto your device, then disconnect the device from the internet and do not log back on until you have had your hard drive re-formated and your operating system re-installed. This requires some specialist technical skill and you may need to seek the advice of a computer hardware specialist – remember to backup any essential files before doing this.
Report a scam
Help if you have been scammed or think you are about to be scammed: Netsafe can’t open investigations or track scammers, but we can offer support and advice for people who have lost money in a scam, or think they are about to. This includes letting you know the steps you can take depending on the scam you’re in and giving you advice about how to stay safe in future. You can report a scam to www.netsafe.org.nz/report.
Our help service is open from 8am – 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am – 5pm on weekends.
- More information on scams
- Quick guide for staying safe online
- Online safety advice for parents
- Online safety advice for businesses