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?
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.
Let’s start at the beginning and answer the most obvious question…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
Stop remote access scams with Guardio’s online protection
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.
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.