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Hacking scams

Hacking (an unauthorised access to personal details in a computer or anywhere)occurs when a scammer gains access to your personal information by using technology to break into your computer, mobile device or network.

Common examples of hacking methods

  • Malware & ransomware - malware tricks you into installing software that allows scammers to access your files and track what you are doing, while ransomware demands payment to 'unlock' your computer or files.
  • Exploiting security weaknesses – weaknesses can include reused and easily guessed passwords, out of date anti-virus software, and unsecured WiFi and Bluetooth connections.
  • Payment redirection scams – if you are a business, a scammer posing as one of your regular suppliers will tell you that their banking details have changed. They will provide you with a new bank account number and ask that all future payments are processed accordingly. The scam is often only detected when your regular supplier asks why they have not been paid.
Once scammers have hacked your computer or mobile device they can access your personal information, change your passwords, and restrict access to your system. They will use the information they obtain to commit fraudulent activities, such as identity theft or they could obtain direct access to your banking and credit card details.

Warning signs

  • You are unable to log in to your computer or mobile device, or your email, social media and other online accounts.
  • You notice new icons on your computer screen, or your computer is not as fast as it normally is.
  • Files on your computer have been moved or deleted.
  • Pop-up boxes start appearing on your computer screen. These may offer to help 'fix' your computer, or a simply have a button that says ‘close’.
  • You have an unexpectedly large phone data or internet bill.
  • You notice that amounts of money go missing from your bank account without any explanation.
  • You suspect that your mobile phone number has been ported without your consent, after you notice that your phone is showing 'SOS only' where the reception bars usually appear.

Protect yourself

  • Always keep your computer security up to date with anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a good firewall. Only buy a computer and anti-virus software from a reputable source.
  • Use your security software to run a virus check if you think your computer’s security has been compromised. If you still have doubts, contact your anti-virus software provider or a computer specialist.
  • Secure your networks and devices, and avoid using public computers or WiFi hotspots to access or provide personal information.
  • Choose passwords and PINs that would be difficult for others to guess, and update them regularly. Do not save them on your phone or computer.
  • Do not open attachments or click on links in emails or social media messages you’ve received from strangers – just press delete.
  • Be wary of free downloads and website access, such as music, games, movies and adult sites. They may install harmful programs without you knowing.
  • Do not use software that auto-completes online forms.
  • Visit  How to avoid scams for tips on how to protect your personal and financial information online.



Hacking Scam Types

1.Phishing scams

Phishing scams are attempts by scammers to trick you into giving out personal information such as your bank account numbers, passwords and credit card numbers.


How does this scam work?

A scammer contacts you pretending to be from a legitimate business such a bank, telephone or internet service provider. You may be contacted by email, social media, phone call, or text message.
The scammer asks you to provide or confirm your personal details. For example, the scammer may say that the bank or organisation is verifying customer records due to a technical error that wiped out customer data. Or, they may ask you to fill out a customer survey and offer a prize for participating.
Alternatively, the scammer may alert you to 'unauthorised or suspicious activity on your account'. You might be told that a large purchase has been made in a foreign country and asked if you authorised the payment. If you reply that you didn't, the scammer will ask you to confirm your credit card or bank details so the 'bank' can investigate. In some cases the scammer may already have your credit card number and ask you to confirm your identity by quoting the 3 or 4 digit security code printed on the card.
Phishing messages are designed to look genuine, and often copy the format used by the organisation the scammer is pretending to represent, including their branding and logo. They will take you to a fake website that looks like the real deal, but has a slightly different address. For example, if the legitimate site is 'www.realbank.com.au', the scammer may use an address like 'www.reallbank.com'.
If you provide the scammer with your details online or over the phone, they will use them to carry out fraudulent activities, such as using your credit cards and stealing your money.

Other types of phishing scams

  • Whaling and spear phishing - the scammer targets a business in an attempt to get confidential information for fraudulent purposes. To make their request appear legitimate, they use details and information specific to the business that they have obtained elsewhere.
  • Pharming - the scammer redirects you to a fake version of a legitimate website you are trying to visit. This is done by infecting your computer with malware which causes you to be redirected to the fake site, even if you type the real address or click on your bookmarked link.

Warning signs

  • You receive an email, text or phone call claiming to be from a bank, telecommunications provider or other business you regularly deal with, asking you to update or verify your details.
  • The email or text message does not address you by your proper name, and may contain typing errors and grammatical mistakes.
  • The website address does not look like the address you usually use and is requesting details the legitimate site does not normally ask for.
  • You notice new icons on your computer screen, or your computer is not as fast as it normally is.

Protect yourself

  • Do not click on any links or open attachments from emails claiming to be from your bank or another trusted organisation and asking you to update or verify your details – just press delete.
  • Do an internet search using the names or exact wording of the email or message to check for any references to a scam – many scams can be identified this way.
  • Look for the secure symbol. Secure websites can be identified by the use of 'https:' rather than 'http:' at the start of the internet address, or a closed padlock or unbroken key icon at the bottom right corner of your browser window. Legitimate websites that ask you to enter confidential information are generally encrypted to protect your details.
  • Never provide your personal, credit card or online account details if you receive a call claiming to be from your bank or any other organisation. Instead, ask for their name and contact number and make an independent check with the organisation in question before calling back.


2.Remote access scams

Remote access scams try to convince you that you have a computer or internet problem and that you need to buy new software to fix the problem.

How this scam works

The scammer will phone you and pretend to be a staff member from a large telecommunications or computer company, such as Airtel, Zamtel, Mtn or Microsoft. Alternatively they may claim to be from a technical support service provider.
They will tell you that your computer has been sending error messages or that it has a virus. They may mention problems with your internet connection or your phone line and say this has affected your computer's recent performance. They may claim that your broadband connection has been hacked.
The caller will request remote access to your computer to ‘find out what the problem is’.
The scammer may try to talk you into buying unnecessary software or a service to ‘fix’ the computer, or they may ask you for your personal details and your bank or credit card details.
The scammer may initially sound professional and knowledgeable—however they will be very persistent and may become abusive if you don't do what they ask.
You don't have to be a Zamtel or Microsoft customer to be called by these scammers. You don’t even have to own a computer!

Warning signs

  • You receive a phone call out of the blue and the caller claims to be from a large telecommunications or computer company, or a technical support service provider.
  • They tell you that your computer is experiencing technical problems and they need remote access to sort out the problem.
  • They ask you to buy software or sign up to a service to fix the computer.
  • They ask for your personal details and your bank or credit card details.
  • The caller is very persistent and may become abusive.

Protect yourself

  • Never give an unsolicited caller remote access to your computer.
  • Never give your personal, credit card or online account details over the phone unless you made the call and the phone number came from a trusted source.
  • If you receive a phone call out of the blue about your computer and remote access is requested – hang up – even if they mention a well-known company such as Mtn, Airtel or Zamtel

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