On Monday, November 29, 2021, the police arrested two men on suspicion of help desk fraud. They allegedly tried to defraud dozens of people via the computer program AnyDesk. The perpetrators managed to get money from at least seven victims.
The police made the announcement on Tuesday.
Help desk fraud in a nutshell
Help desk fraud is a type of scam where cybercriminals impersonate an employee of a trusted entity, such as a bank. They approach unsuspecting victims, mostly elderly seniors, with the message that they must take immediate action, for example, to safeguard their savings. To do this, the ‘helpdesk employee needs access to the victim’s computer.
Some scammers are so cheeky that they visit someone and ask if they can view the computer. Others ask their victims to install special software so that they can help remotely. At a certain point, a counterfeit payment environment will appear. This is often very difficult to distinguish from the real one. The fraudsters ask their victims if they can enter their payment and login details here, not knowing that they end up in the hands of the criminals.
Now that the scammers have the credentials, they can access their victim’s bank account. They can loot them at any time. When the victim realizes that he has been created, it is often too late. On average, the financial damage of help desk fraud in the Netherlands is between 500 and 3,000 euros.
Curse and a blessing
One of the programs that internet scammers use to retrieve banking and login details is AnyDesk. Once the software has been installed and you give someone else permission to watch, he has full access to all files and other data on your computer. Very useful if you have a problem that you cannot solve yourself. Dangerous if the wrong people get to your PC.
Digital detective Toon Cardinal sees that such remote desktop tools are often misused by cybercriminals in practice. “We sometimes literally hear from perpetrators of bank help desk fraud that it can take a very long time to extract money from victims. Therefore, these criminals are always looking for new ways of online scams. We have seen the use of programs such as AnyDesk or Teamviewer for some time: a so-called bank employee asks the victim over the telephone to install it.”
Last year, the police warned about scammers who tried to kill victims via TeamViewer.
Police catch criminals in the act
At the end of last year, Cardinal experienced a case in which two suspects appeared in person at someone’s door to install AnyDesk themselves. The police caught the duo, aged 22 and 24 respectively, in the act in Amsterdam. They supposedly tried to scam dozens of people using AnyDesk. So far, the police have linked seven victims to the suspects, who have stolen a total of more than 20,000 euros.
The men are no longer in custody but are still suspects in the case. The Central Netherlands police unit is continuing the investigation. Officers seized the suspects’ phones and laptops for further investigation.
Tips to avoid falling victim to help desk fraud
The police are calling on people to report if people have recently knocked on the door asking to install a computer program. To prevent you from becoming a victim of help desk fraud, the police advise never to share your login details with anyone you do not know.
Is someone standing at your door asking if they can install software on your computer? Then don’t let this person in. Finally, never let an unknown person just sit behind your computer.
Hacker tries to poison drinking water
Things almost went wrong in the US when an attacker tried to poison the drinking water supply in a village via TeamViewer. The hacker used this software to gain access to the computer system of the regional drinking water company. He then sent and installed malware to take control of the computers.
Once inside, the man tried to adjust the acidity of the drinking water by adding sodium hydroxide. By adding this substance to the water, toxic substances such as lead and copper are reduced. Sodium hydroxide is a harmless substance unless you add it to the water in high concentrations.
An employee sounded the alarm in time so that everything went well. Local police called the attempt to poison the drinking water supply a “wake-up call.” The FBI warned afterwards that hackers often use programs such as TeamViewer to install malicious programs.
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