Can scammers hack your computer via remote access software?

June 20th · 9 min read

Rotem Tal - Senior Cybersecurity Expert |Writer & Editor|
Rotem Tal - Senior Cybersecurity Expert |Writer & Editor|

You wouldn't just let any random person access your computer, would you? Absolutely not! What if that person claimed to be from a well-known software company offering to help fix your computer? Well, that's a different story… maybe you'd be a bit more open to it, wouldn’t you?

That’s exactly the dilemma victims encounter when they get lured into Remote Access scams . A scam you should be aware of and ready for because it’s absolutely one of the nastiest around.

This article delves into what remote access is and who uses it. Then we’ll explain how some really unpleasant people, AKA scammers, hackers, and cyber-criminals set up remote access scams to commit crimes and ruin innocent peoples’ lives (yeah - we’re not huge fans of remote access scams!).

We’ll also go into detail and show you how one of these remote access scams work, how they appear, and tell you what to look out for. Finally, and most importantly, we’ll look at what you can do to protect yourself and your family from this and other online scams.

Protect yourself and your family from online threats

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Let’s start at the beginning and answer the most obvious question…

What’s remote access?

Simply put, remote access is a tool that allows (as its name suggests) other people, like IT experts, to take control of your computer. It allows them to investigate and fix problems without requiring them to physically be there.

Let’s say, for example, you encounter a software or app issue on your computer. Rather than taking it in for repair and waiting 3 days to get it back, there's a solution. You can contact an IT expert who’ll be able to get you out of the jam without needing to leave the comfort of your own home. Most likely, they’ll ask you to download software that will give them remote access to your device.

Once connected, viola! They can access your computer from their device and fix whatever needs fixing - as if they were sitting right next to you. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? But as they say, “The knife in the hand of a doctor will heal, but if you give it to a criminal, it can harm”. Or in other words, if used by the right people, it can be a lifesaver, but if it falls into the hands of cyber-criminals, it can wreak havoc on your life.

Even popular remote access tools like AnyDesk , TeamViewer , Splashtop , and ConnectWise are being taken advantage of by scammers. It’s important to say that these tools are entirely legitimate and are essential for many IT professionals. Unfortunately, remote access tools also work wonderfully for criminals, scammers, and con artists.

So it’s not really the type of software you’re using that matters they all more or less do the same thing. It's what the person at the other end does with it that matters.

Why are remote access scams so horrible?

Remote access scams specifically target the more vulnerable - people who understand less about computers and technology and are easily panicked into thinking something terrible is about to happen. Now, no one likes to think that they’ll fall for a scam like this, and hopefully, after reading this, you definitely won’t. But a potential victim could easily be an older family member, friend, or neighbor.

What makes these scams even worse is that unless the victim knows they’re being scammed and how to stop it, the criminal can take them for everything they’ve got. If the hacker gains full access to the victim's computer, they can easily steal personal information, which can be used for identity theft . Then they can drain bank accounts, take out loans, steal medical records, SSNs, passwords - you name it. This is a long con and can destroy lives.

How does a remote access scam work?

One of the most dangerous things when it comes to scams is our own certainty - “I’d never fall for that….”. But scammers these days are so crafty with their traps that even the smartest and savviest among us have a tough time avoiding being fooled. Side note - a healthy dose of skepticism, with a sprinkle of humility, is always a good idea when you’re on the internet.

The hook

To begin with, our scammer needs to make you believe there’s something wrong with either your computer or an online account that you own. They do this by buying your personal information or private data on the Dark Web . Yes, we know it might be hard to believe — but your online data is always at risk and there’s a good chance information from a number of your online accounts have already been leaked online .

Once a scammer gets a hold of credentials to an online account, they can “try” logging in too many times, which will lead to it being blocked. Or, if they have your password, they can just change it and lock you out.

By locking you out of your account, the scammers create a panic and make you believe there’s a problem. Imagine not being able to log in to your bank , or Amazon account. Or if your Microsoft Office has suddenly stopped working, and Norton antivirus is no longer protecting you – There’s really no end to what these cyber-criminals will think of to reel you in.

The bait

But have no fear help is on its way! In the form of a scammy email, SMS, or even a webpage - all offering help. Messages prompt you to click on “Contact support,” and your problem will be resolved in no time. Believe it or not, some of the remote access tools (mentioned above) come equipped with features that allow legitimate IT professionals to create support centers. But sadly, they can also be used by cyber-criminals to create fake help centers, just like this one:

Fake Amazon Email

That’s the bait. You need help, and they’re offering a solution to the problem they caused. Obviously, you respond by either calling or clicking the link. Bait swallowed. Now they have you on the phone, and because there’s no way you’ll be able to fix the problem by yourself, they convince you to download the remote access software of their choice. The scammers, while being very charming and polite, create a real sense of urgency and pressure. You’re given no time to think or question anything - quite the opposite. You’re rushed and made to think that you’ve messed up.

20% of remote access software installations are for malicious purposes and scams. Guardio is a security software and Chrome extension that immediately warns you if you ever come across any scams.

Stop remote access scams with Guardio’s online protection

Protect yourself and your family from online threats, start your free 7-day trial today.

As soon as you’ve downloaded the necessary software and the scammer’s connected to your computer, there’s not really any way back. While there are different versions of the scam, they all basically head downhill and lead to disaster. You might be wondering, “What’s the worst they can do?”, “Create a Word document”? “Download all my cat pictures?” Well, no, that’s not what they’re after.

Every online account you have - bank, credit card, medical insurance, Social Security, online shopping, you name it - and they’ll drain it. However, the nightmare doesn't end there. The Holy Grail of cyber-crime awaits - identity theft. With a stolen identity, criminals can, as mentioned above, empty bank accounts, take out loans, max out credit cards, steal medical records - everything, until it's all gone.

They can go to the extent of assuming your identity and passing it off to someone else, crafting counterfeit passports and IDs using your personal information. It may sound like we’re exaggerating, and we wish we were - but we’ve literally seen it happen again and again. What's truly alarming is that all this unfolds in real-time, whether you're on the call with them or away from your computer.

Not to be a Debby downer, but this last point doesn’t ease the pain. Once a scammer has control of your computer and your online accounts, they’re not going to give them up quickly. They’ll be sure to leave backdoors to everything - in other words, they’ll always make sure they have a way back in.

What does a remote access scam actually look like?

If you pay close enough attention and you know what to look for, then you might be able to spot a remote access scam. But unfortunately, most of us don’t pay as much attention online as we should. We’re almost always multitasking, busy doing something else at the same time. If you’re reading this on your laptop, you probably have a few tabs open. If you’re on a mobile device, then likely distracted by phone calls, Whatsapp messages, Instagram notifications, and a whole lot more. Your chances of being fully focused are almost zero.

How can you protect yourself?

The first thing you should do is download software or an extension that’ll keep you protected. Ideally, it’ll be preventative like Guardio , which will warn you BEFORE you click a dangerous link and notify you if something is fake or a scam. It’s like your online Spidey sense or bouncer. It differs from traditional anti-virus software as it stops the bad stuff at the door rather than waiting to tackle it after it’s already broken into your computer.

Guardio sits on your browser, so it’s with you as you browse the internet, checking every site you open for potential threats or danger in real time. It’s your first line of defense against scams and fraud and your last line of defense against identity theft.

So, if for example, you were to open one of these fake “Help Center” sites, Guardio would immediately warn you and advise you to return to a safer site.
Stop remote access scams with Guardio’s online protection

Protect yourself and your family from online threats, start your free 7-day trial today.

6 crucial tips to dodge remote access scams

In today's digital age, it’s crucial to cultivate a healthy dose of skepticism and suspicion whenever you navigate online. It may sound cliché, but the importance of not believing everything you read on the internet can’t be overstated. With online scams and cyber-crime steadily increasing in frequency and sophistication, it’s vital to prioritize your safety. But hey, no need to stress, we've got your back. Check out these six essential tips that will keep you one step ahead and shield you from remote access scams:

1. Be wary of unsolicited calls or messages Never provide remote access to anyone who contacts you unexpectedly. Scammers often pose as technical support agents, claiming there’s an issue with your computer or internet connection. Unless you’re sure they’re a trusted service provider or you initiated the communication, be skeptical and avoid granting access to your computer.

2. Verify the legitimacy of the caller If someone claims to be from a well-known company or organization, ask for their name, position, and contact information. Look up the official phone number or website of the company and reach out to them directly to confirm if the call was legitimate.

3. Protect your personal and financial information Never share sensitive information like passwords, banking details, or Social Security numbers over the phone or through remote access. Legitimate organizations will never ask for this information over the phone.

4. Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) 2FA adds an extra layer of security to your accounts, as it requires you to provide an additional code or verification step along with your password. So, even if scammers manage to get your password, they won't be able to access your accounts without the secondary verification.

5. Keep your software up to date Regularly update your operating system, antivirus software, and other applications. Software updates often include security patches that address vulnerabilities exploited by scammers. By keeping your software up to date, you minimize the risk of falling victim to remote access scams.

6. Educate yourself and your loved ones Stay informed about the latest scams and tactics employed by cyber-criminals. Share these tips with your family and friends and encourage them to get a preventative like Guardio .
Protecting yourself from remote access scams requires vigilance and awareness. Stay cautious, verify identities, and prioritize your online security. Preventative software like Guardio can keep you safe and protected and alert you before the scam even happens. Remember, scam prevention is always better than dealing with the consequences of a scam.
Stop remote access scams with Guardio’s online protection

Protect yourself and your family from online threats, start your free 7-day trial today.

At Guardio we stop these crimes before they even happen by alerting our customers whenever they encounter any malicious online activity. For more information about the tech behind these scams and how we identify and predict them, check out Guardio Labs .

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