Don't be fooled | Scammers target SE

SHE usually hangs up.

But Sherrin Sutcliffe found herself vulnerable on Mach14  after being caught up by a scam from an overseas call centre, claiming they were from Telstra and she had severe problems with her system.

"I let them in, but they caught me at a very bad time when I was getting ready for an all night chardonnay pick that night," Ms Sutcliffe told the Herald. 

"I was extremely distracted. The most stupid thing was that when they called the day before, I hung up on them."

Ms Sutcliffe said the first caller was polite, and sounded like they were in a busy call centre which helped perpetuate their authenticity.

Using a version of a remote-access program called Teamviewer, which linked Ms Sutcliffe's computer to theirs, the scammer asked her to type in a serious of prompts.

"They then asked what screen is in front of me," she said. "I said I had almost 40 error messages."

The scammer then told her that was very bad and passed her on to a "more senior technician" - which happened several times until she reached the "head of the department".

"I kept asking if they were really from Telstra and they said 'we'll get to that later'," Ms Sutcliffe said. "They were fobbing me off, basically."

It was only when the head of the department said she'd need to buy their software to recover her computer system that Ms Sutcliffe clued in she was being duped - and hung up.

"They rang back 10 seconds later and asked me why I had hung up," she said.

"He then told me I may as well throw my system in the bin because he had put his own password on it.

"Then he laughed and hung up."

The scammer had indeed locked Ms Sutcliffe out of her own computer - but fortuitously left the password as "123", which she was able to guess straight up.

When she logged back in, Ms Sutcliffe found years of files had been deleted - so much that she hasn't been able to determine exactly what has gone.

"I won't know until I really get into it," she said.

The next day Ms Sutcliffe contacted the legitimate Telstra - which had a technician go through her system and found the scammers had put an encryption on her files.

"He told me he couldn't guarantee he could save my system," she said.

"He said if I hadn't acted immediately I would have lost everything."

Solving the problem ended up costing Ms Sutcliffe $120 - but meant her computer remained working, albeit with a lot less data on it.

Ms Sutcliffe warned others at risk of being tricked out of their money, saying scammers target people with landlines and claiming they are from recognised brands.

Some of her friends in town have also been targeted.

"This is so common," Ms Sutcliffe said. "I feel stupid...I feel absolutely ridiculous."

For more information on active scams, go to Scam Watch.

Read more: The French backpacker who was scammed.

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