Why that phone call is likely a hoax

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I received a call from a reader last week. She was upset and had spent time on a call with what she believed was a significant anti-virus supplier.

The person who called her correctly identified the anti-virus she had installed on her computer, so there was clearly a breach that revealed that information. The bottom line was she let them into her computer remotely, and they most likely planted spyware on the computer. They then tried to bill her over $400 for performing work on her computer.

Thankfully she didn’t pay it and reached out to me quickly. If you have ever let anyone you don’t know have remote access to your computer, you need to have it checked out by your local computer store. They may have planted software to track your passwords, including bank passwords. I have been in the industry for a long time, and I can assure you no reputable software company will reach out to you by phone to resolve an issue on your computer, especially a problem you do not know about.

These guys come across as very professional and often have great information about you. It makes you inclined to believe them. For example, they will often represent the NBN and say that your computer is causing issues on their network. The NBN is a wholesale organisation and supplies services to Internet service providers. The NBN will never call an end-user direct.

Similarly, callers pretending to be from Microsoft, a bank, Amazon, Australia Post or any other large organisation are mostly hoaxes. No matter who they are, ask for a reference number, hang up and look up the number on their website and call them back. If they will not give you a number or insist you work with them, hang up.

What makes them convincing is that they already have a lot of information about you. This information is gleaned from the Internet and compiled into a database. There have been many data breaches on the Internet. Millions of companies have been breached, and the information they have about you is now on the dark web. Facebook alone has had over a billion client records stolen, and how much data does it have about you? In fact, almost all social media platforms have been compromised, giving these callers plenty of information to convince you of their validity.

To get an idea of the number of breaches and the types of data available, look at informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/worlds-biggest-data-breaches-hacks or Google ‘World’s biggest data breaches’.

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