News 6 reporter targeted in phone scheme

Caller contacted newsroom offering money to gain access to computer

ORLANDO, Fla. – As part of my work as an investigative reporter, I frequently hear from News 6 viewers who complain about unwanted phone calls from potential schemers.

While sitting at my desk in the newsroom this week, I received one of those phone calls myself.

An unidentified man told me I was entitled to a $430 refund related to the computer I had recently purchased.

I haven't purchased a computer in years, so I knew his call was likely fraudulent.

Also, he suspiciously never asked for my name and the caller certainly didn't ask where I worked.

"Our company is going out of business because we are moving back to Canada and we are not able to provide you any services. So that's why we are providing you the refund," the caller told me.

When I asked how I could obtain that refund, he directed me to the website for AnyDesk, a company that provides remote desktop software.

When used for legitimate purposes, remote desktop software can allow people who travel or work from home to remotely access their computer at the office.

Likewise, IT specialists will occasionally use such software to gain access to distant computers to assess and fix problems.

But the software can also be used by people for fraudulent purposes.

"It's very prevalent and the main target in that type of scam are usually consumers," said Andrew Von Ramin Mapp, a cybersecurity expert who runs Data Analyzers in Lake Mary.

The man who called me in the newsroom instructed me to open the AnyDesk software and provide him with an access code number that appeared on the screen.

I refused to comply with his request.

"If you have that access code, then you can remotely access that computer from anywhere in the world with almost any device in the world," Von Ramin Mapp said. "Now that individual has full control of your computer and the information stored on it."

That information could include website passwords, financial documents or other sensitive data stored on the computer.

"If (the software) is misused in a malicious capacity, then it becomes very dangerous," Von Ramin Mapp said.

Representatives with Germany-based AnyDesk did not immediately respond to an email from News 6 seeking comment for this story.   

But the company has posted a video on YouTube warning its customers to avoid becoming the victims of scams.

AnyDesk recommends guarding your remote access data as if it were a bank account number or email password and never granting access to people you don't know.

After I refused to provide the access code to the man who called the News 6 newsroom, he increased the "refund" I'd allegedly receive to $500.

Then he hung up on me.

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