ONE phone call nearly cost a Wardell mother everything.
It was a run of the mill Thursday evening when Kirsty Shepherd was handed the phone by her 11-year-old son, who initially took the call.
The young mother didn't expect that she was soon to be ensnared in a trap carefully plotted by a scammer on the other side of the world.
She said the man, who posed as a worker from Telstra Security Support, sounded legitimate at first when he mentioned she may have viruses on her computer.
Despite asking the fake techie to provide a run-down on how to fix the problem, he convinced her that he would guide her through the process.
With her son playing Playstation with a friend in the living room, Ms Shepherd went ahead with haste to share her screen with the impostor to quickly correct the problem.
The man's fake employee number and name also appeared on the screen as he got to work on her computer after she was instructed to download a program called Teamviewer, which allowed him to access her laptop.
Red flags went off for Ms Shepherd when she was told she had 94,000 viruses on her computer and was told to pay for a Telstra security plan.
At that time, the questions Ms Shepherd raised were met with what she said were reasonable explanations.
But when she asked why the caller wanted details such as her licence number, his tone became aggressive and he proceeded to delete her documents, photos and personal things "you'd know you'd miss".
"He kept saying 'you pay the money and we'll fix it up I'm just showing you what a hacker would do if you don't fix the problem," Ms Shepherd said.
"But I said: 'okay but you're doing exactly what a hacker would do.'"
Holding her online possessions at ransom, the man told her to transfer the money and the erased files would be restored.
In a growing panic, Ms Shepherd transferred about $360 from her bank account.
"I had no choice, I wanted to keep my stuff," she said.
An alert from Western Union was sent to her inbox via her mobile, meaning the scammer used her details to establish an account requesting $310 be transferred to an account in India.
When he said to call the bank and pose as a friend to get a discount on the transfer fee, Ms Shepherd was certain she was being duped.
Her suspicions were further justified when a legitimate Telstra Chat representative confirmed the man wasn't one of their employees.
"At that point, I put down the phone as if I was calling Western Union and I called Ballina police instead," Ms Shepherd said.
"They advised me to pull the battery on the laptop ... and hung up on the guy."
Luckily, Western Union has a four hour period to approve the transfer that enabled Ms Shepherd's money and the majority of her files to be returned.
The next day, Ms Shepherd endeavoured on the tedious task of changing her bank details, passwords and receiving a new licence.
But nearly losing everything wasn't the worst part about the ordeal, she said.
The realisation that the call centre background noise was others like her being scammed around Australia and abroad was harrowing for Ms Shepherd.
Unfortunately, there's not much police can do to catch the culprits Senior Constable David Henderson said as the nature of these scams are usually multi-national operations.
"It's virtually impossible to find these people," he said.
Snr Const Henderson said the Ms Shepard's case was an example of the scams becoming more sophisticated.
To identify a fraudster, Snr Const Henderson outlined key techniques scammers use to try and access personal information.
Firstly, he said Telstra will never call to say is a virus on your computer nor will they ask a customer to download software, especially Teamviewer.
Teamviewer is often used in workplaces to view and control different computers but he said it can be abused by scammers.
Things to look out for include about a 10 second delay in response from the caller and pressure for the caller to make rash decisions.
He advised those who think it may be a scam to suggest to the scammer they will follow up at their local Telstra branch.
To others who may be preyed by fraudsters, Ms Shepherd said never give out your personal information to anyone over the phone.
"Trust your gut. If it sounds dodgy the it is. I thought I'd never get hit by something like that."