By Ryan Lewallen, County 17
A remote access application scam surfaced in Campbell County Monday with one resident losing nearly $1,600, Gillette Police Department officials said Tuesday.
The resident, a 61-year-old female, received a phone call shortly before 9:45 p.m. Feb. 22 and was told her identity had been compromised and that she needed to take several steps to prevent any further fraudulent activity, GPD Detective Sgt. Eric Dearcorn said Tuesday.
The caller, who remains unknown and used a text subscriber phone number, convinced the 61-year-old female to install AnyDesk, a remote desktop access application, on her home computer, Dearcorn said.
Once the app was installed, the caller was able to access the 61-year-old female’s bank account and PayPal information and removed the funds.
The 61-year-old female’s daughter, a 42-year-old female who initially reported the incident, said that she intended to freeze all her mother’s bank accounts to prevent further loss, but the 61-year-old female is still out nearly $1,600, according to Dearcorn.
As of Feb. 23, there are no suspects and no leads, Dearcorn said.
The AnyDesk application can be installed on any computer and can enable access to that device from anywhere in the world. Normally, the application is utilized by IT specialists in companies to remotely fix computer problems, according to the AnyDesk website.
The Economic Times reports that the application is used by millions of people, in thousands of companies, in hundreds of countries.
The creators of AnyDesk, however, recognize the potential for their application to be used for illicit purposes and have a standing warning on their website urging users not to grant device access to unfamiliar people.
The AnyDesk scam is a worldwide phenomenon where scammers reach out to their victims and, through various means, convince them to download and install the AnyDesk software.
The AnyDesk website warns of several past incidents and attempts including false emails from Microsoft impersonators offering to clean devices of malicious software as well as other “cold call” help offers.
Once the application is installed, the scammers can search their victims’ computers for sensitive documents, passwords, and personal details, according to a Sept. 2020 report by Bleeping Computer.
Scammers can then use the stolen information to access victim bank accounts and steal any available funds. Recently, a similar scam was used to deprive several citizens of Budapest of $350,000, according to the report.
According to Gadgets Now, scams involving remote access applications are so effective due to a general technological illiteracy among citizens worldwide. Most citizens don’t understand how AnyDesk, or similar applications like TeamViewer, work.
The most effective defense against remote access scam operations is to ensure users are informed and educated about the potentials of fraud, The Economic Times reports, which includes treating digital access the same as in-person access to confidential information.
Citizens are encouraged to carefully consider who the person asking for the information is, and, if it is a stranger, avoid granting access, according to the report.
Generally, specialists with mainstream service credentials will not cold call or reach out seeking access to confidential information by phone, according to the AnyDesk website.
The same goes for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) who have a longstanding memo on their federal website stating they will never request personal or financial information by email, text, or social media.
The IRS also states that they never contact taxpayers with threats of lawsuits or arrests.