The ‘phantom hacker’ scam is a widespread fraudulent scheme growing in popularity and targeting people all over the United States.
The FBI warns people, especially older Americans, to be cautious and vigilant.
This type of scam is a variation of tech support scams, where imposters pretend to be bank personnel, government officials, or tech support specialists to trick and defraud their targets.
The three-step ‘phantom hacker’ scam can lead to substantial financial losses, with victims potentially losing their entire banking, savings, retirement, or investment accounts.
Scammers often convince victims to take immediate action to protect their assets.
In the first half of 2023 alone, the FBI received 19,000 complaints about this scam, resulting in estimated losses exceeding $542 million.
Alarmingly, approximately 66% of these losses were reported by individuals over 60.
How to Recognize and Defend Against the Phantom Hacker Scam
The FBI has broken down the ‘phantom hacker’ scam into three phases:
- Tech Support Imposter: Scammers pose as legitimate business representatives, contacting victims via phone, text messages, or emails.
They convince victims to download software onto their personal computers, granting the scammer remote access.
- False Virus Detection: The scammer claims to detect a virus on the victim’s computer and instructs them to open their financial accounts to check for unauthorized transactions.
- Fake Bank Contact: After identifying a specific account for theft, the scammer pretends to be from the victim’s bank or brokerage firm.
They inform the victim that their account has been compromised and direct them to transfer their funds to a supposedly ‘safe’ third-party account, often disguised as a government account.
Money is transferred via wire transfer, and the victim is urged not to inform anyone.
The final phase involves scammers posing as government officials, further legitimizing the scam and prompting victims to transfer their money to a new ‘alias’ account.
To protect yourself from falling victim to “phantom hackers,” the FBI recommends the following precautions:
- Refuse to Download Software: Refrain from downloading software from unknown sources.
- Avoid Clicking on Unwanted Links: Never click on pop-ups, text links, or email links from unverified sources.
- Don’t Call Back Unknown Numbers: Avoid returning calls to unknown numbers.
- Protect Your Computer: Never allow unknown individuals access to your computer.
If you suspect a “phantom hacker” scam has targeted you, the FBI advises contacting your local FBI office and visiting www.ib3.gov.
When reporting the incident, please provide information about the person and company that got you, their contact details, and the potentially impacted bank accounts.
Vigilance and prompt reporting are vital to combating these scams and protecting yourself from financial harm.
Source: Miami Herald via Yahoo News