The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recently warned about the rise in "phantom hacker" scams targeting senior citizens in the United States.
The term, although sophisticated in name, represents an evolved and multi-layered version of "traditional" tech support scams.
These scams comprise a combination of impersonation scams including fake tech support, government officials and representatives at pseudo-financial institutions to gain the victim's trust.
The targets of these scams experience devastating financial losses. The scammers create the illusion that they are safeguarding their assets when, in reality, victims are unwittingly handing over the keys to their financial security.
The scam generally starts with a fake bank representative or another authority figure reaching out to potential victims. This initial contact acts as a scouting operation to assess the financial worth of the target. Should the victim have a significant amount in their accounts, they are further pursued.
They will be instructed to wait for contact from a "bank administrator," another scammer, who then advises them to transfer all their funds into a so-called "secure account," which is actually controlled by the perpetrators.
There's a further escalation for victims who prove resistant and are not easily convinced. Another scammer, posing as a government official intervenes, sometimes even providing fake official documentation to bolster the credibility of the scam.
According to the FBI's public service announcement, "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%."
To combat the rise of these scams, the FBI has provided a series of recommendations:
In closing, the FBI urges the public to report suspicious activities to their local FBI offices and provide as much detail as possible to help counteract these sophisticated threats.
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