Security Tips on Remote Desktop Scams

Published date:

Frustrated person on phone with scammer

Most of us have probably received a spam call in the past, but the most dangerous types of spam calls are ones that are designed to scam you out of money.  Quite frequently these sorts of attacks will involve the use of Remote Desktop Software which will allow the scam callers into your device and take control of it (if you let them).  Scammers are using modern technology to trick you into parting with your hard earned cash by pretending to be calling from a reputable company. 

How does this cyber and telephone scam work?

The general themes for the most common types of calls are that they are calling to try and help you with a made up computer issue, an account issue or an internet problem. They may initially sound professional and knowledgeable, but if you don’t do what they ask they will be persistent and can become abusive. 

Examples of recent scam calls involving remote desktop software have been from scammers claiming to work for companies such as:

  • Microsoft (Technical support)
  • Amazon
  • Openreach (Sometimes called BT Openreach)
  • Banks
  • Government bodies (for example HMRC)

The spam callers will first of all try and convince you that you have a problem of some description such as:

  • we have detected a problem with your Microsoft Windows
  • there is an issue with your Amazon account subscription
  • we have detected a problem with your broadband line
  • there is a problem with your bank account or a payment

They will then go on to use remote access software such as TeamViewer or LogMeIn Rescue and will ask you to download and install this free software so that you can let them into your device in order to “help you fix the problem”.  They will normally try and show you some sort of made up evidence to validate that there is an issue when in fact there isn’t. 

Remote desktop software can be useful for legitimate purposes as it allows you to access a device from another location and use and interact with it as if you were sat in front of it.  Obviously this is a big security risk if you are allowing someone you don’t trust to access your device because it's effectively like giving it to someone to take control of and use it as if they had it in their hand. If you do allow someone to use remote access software they could potentially infect your device with Malware, such as Key-loggers, in order to obtain further sensitive and personal data to try an extort more money from you. 

The scammer will then try and talk you in to buying software to either fix the problem or to stop it reoccurring in the future, or they may even ask you for bank or credit card and other personal details. 

Stay Cyber Secure

Some safeguards to take from example cases of these types of attack are:

  • Never install any software that you do not need, especially if advised by someone over the phone after receiving a cold call.  Just hang up!
  • Always keep software and operating systems up to date by enabling automatic updates. It is also a good idea to install good anti-virus and firewall software and keep these up to date as well. 
  • Never give out any personal information unless you made the call yourself to a phone number you have verified as correct. 
  • Always be cautious about any calls received as these incidents happen very regularly and you could be next on their call list. 

What to do if you become a victim?

If you have been a victim of this type of scam you can visit the NI Direct website for further information on who to contact for help or just to report the incident.  You can also file a report on the Action Fraud website

More Useful Links:

PSNI Scamwise NI Little Book of Phone Scams

PSNI scam advice page

Scamwise NI partnership