The Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning of a new scam, dubbed “Phantom Hacker,” that targets senior citizens.
According to the FBI, the Phantom Hacker scam has already cost victims a whopping $542 million, 40% more than in 2022:
The FBI is warning the public of a recent nationwide increase in “Phantom Hacker” scams, significantly impacting senior citizens. This Phantom Hacker scam is an evolution of more general tech support scams, layering imposter tech support, financial institution, and government personas to enhance the trust victims place in the scammers and identify the most lucrative accounts to target. Victims often suffer the loss of entire banking, savings, retirement, or investment accounts under the guise of “protecting” their assets. Between January and June 2023, 19,000 complaints related to tech support scams were submitted to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), with estimated victim losses of over $542 million. Almost 50% of the victims reported to IC3 were over 60 years-old, comprising 66% of the total losses. As of August 2023, losses have already exceeded those in 2022 by 40%.
The scammers pose as tech support agents, financial institution representatives, or US government employees. Ultimately, the scam ends with convincing the victim to transfer their funds to a different account, one the scammer controls.
The FBI recommends several steps to protect against the scam:
- Do not click on unsolicited pop-ups, links sent via text messages, or email links or attachments.
- Do not contact the telephone number provided in a pop-up, text, or email.
- Do not download software at the request of an unknown individual who contacted you.
- Do not allow an unknown individual who contacted you to have control of your computer.
- The US Government will never request you send money via wire transfer to foreign accounts, cryptocurrency, or gift/prepaid cards.
The FBI says potential victims should also report any such scam attempts immediately at www.ic3.gov.