It’s a sobering figure. More than £50 million was lost last year to scams where victims were tricked into handing over control of their computer or smartphone to criminals, says the City of London police. And according to Action Fraud, the UK national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, 20,144 people fell victim to scams where they were persuaded to grant criminals remote access to their device.

This might not seem like a huge number of people, but it’s clearly more than enough. Behind each figure is a story of deception, manipulation and loss. And behind each story is another successful remote access scam.

How do remote scams work?
  • Remote access scams often start with a browser pop-up saying that your computer is infected with a virus.
  • Or it could be a call from someone claiming to be from your bank saying that they need to connect to your computer in order to cancel a fraudulent transaction on your account.
Criminals try to persuade the victim to download and connect to your computer or smart phone via remote access tool so they can ‘sort the problem’ out.

Of course this is nonsense. They might take you through a conversation explaining what they are doing, which is nothing more than a disingenuous conversation to create a smoke screen for their real intentions.

For those not aware of this scam the cyber villains can appear genuine and persuasive. But their ultimate aim is to steal money and access the victims banking information. And as the figures reveal they are successful.

How to avoid a remote connection scam
  • Only install software or grant remote access to your computer if you’re asked by someone you know and trust, such as a friend or family member.
  • Never ever grant remote access to your computer as a result of an unsolicited call, browser pop up, or text message.
  • Remember, a bank or service provider will never contact you out of the blue requesting remote access to your device.
  • Make sure you’re using proven antivirus software to keep your computer safe from malware.
  • If you think you have been scammed protect your money by contacting your bank immediately on a different device from the one the scammer contacted you on.
Always take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information. This can keep you safe.

Ask yourself could the email, text or call be fake? It’s okay to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.

Remember these threats are very real and losses can be substantial. In one case about 18 months ago somebody lost £80,000 after receiving a call from a ‘BT engineer’. The so called engineer phoned the person, said there were connection issues in the area, and said the victim needed to allow remote access to their computer, which ultimately led to the loss of live savings.