The FBI has issued a public warning about a concerning surge in ‘phantom hacker‘ scams, which are disproportionately impacting elderly individuals across the United States.
Furthermore, these scams are described as a more advanced version of traditional tech support scams, involving fraudsters impersonating various personas, including tech support, financial institutions, and government entities. The objective is to build trust with victims and target their most valuable accounts, resulting in severe financial losses. Victims often end up losing their entire savings, retirement funds, or investment accounts under the guise of protecting their assets.
In these scams, multiple fraudsters posing as bank representatives contact unsuspecting victims and falsely claim that their accounts have been compromised by hackers. They employ various tactics to persuade victims to grant access to their accounts and assess whether substantial funds are available for exploitation.
Valuable targets are instructed to await a call from their “bank,” which is, in fact, another scammer. This second fraudster advises victims to transfer their funds to a purportedly secure account controlled by the scammers. If targets resist manipulation, a third impersonator, posing as a U.S. government representative, makes a final attempt to convince victims to move their funds to a “safe” account.
The FBI’s warning is supported by alarming statistics: between January and June 2023, they received 19,000 complaints related to tech support scams, with estimated losses exceeding $542 million. Notably, nearly 50% of victims reported to the FBI were over 60 years old, accounting for 66% of the total losses. To protect themselves, individuals are advised to exercise caution when encountering unsolicited pop-ups, links, or email attachments. They should avoid contacting the provided telephone numbers in such communications and never download software at the request of unfamiliar individuals.
Additionally, the FBI emphasized that the U.S. government never demands cryptocurrency, gift/prepaid cards, or foreign wire transfers for any purpose. Victims of such scams are encouraged to report incidents to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), providing essential details for law enforcement to investigate these fraudulent activities.