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FBI warns of Phantom Hackers stealing millions
October 5, 2023

FBI warns of Phantom Hackers stealing millions

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Don’t click a popup window, y’all.

You know what they say: Scammers really do stay scamming.

On September 29, the FBI released a report warning the public, and particularly senior citizens, of ‘Phantom Hacker’ scams that can leave victims with their entire life savings gone.

Scams focusing on senior citizens are nothing new, but the FBI called these ‘Phantom Hacker’ scams an ‘evolution’ of the past scams we might be more familiar with. These scammers ‘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,’ according to the FBI report.

Oftentimes, victims give their entire backing, savings, retirement, and investment accounts over to the scammers thinking they’re protecting their assets. More than $542 million, in total, has been stolen and 66 percent of those losses happened to people over 60 years old. The scams are multi-step affairs and they’re only getting more common.

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Here’s how it works: A scammer pretends to be a tech support representative, and contacts a victim over phone or email, and instructs them to download a software program that gives the scammer remote access to the victim’s computer. From there, the scammer ‘proves’ to the victim that their computer is at risk of being hacked, and requests their financial accounts to see if there have been unauthorized charges.

Then, the scammer poses as a representative from the financial institution tied to the victim’s bank account, and instructs the victim to move their money to a third-party account to keep it safe. At some point, the scammer might also pose as an employee as a government agency to legitimize the scam.

To protect yourself from this kind of an invasion, the FBI recommends that you don’t ‘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.’

As a reminder, the government isn’t going to ask you to wire transfer your money, buy cryptocurrency, or stock up on gift cards. I’m not saying trust no one — but I am saying don’t trust that guy on the phone that you’ve never met telling you about a problem you allegedly have that you’ve never experienced and requesting you get rid of all the money you have.


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