Between January and June, 19,000 complaints linked to tech support scams were submitted to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). The losses for these complaints were estimated to be over $542 million.
"Almost 50 percent of the victims reported to IC3 were over 60 years-old, comprising 66 percent of the total losses," the FBI stated. "As of August 2023, losses have already exceeded those in 2022 by 40 percent."
"The Phantom Hacker scam shares many similarities with other online scams," said an article on the Tom's Guide website. "But its complexity [lies with] how this particular scam has managed to trick so many victims in such a short time." (Related: Beta-testing, crypto-romance and more: FBI warns internet users about app-hacking techniques.)
According to the FBI, the multiple-phase scam begins with a fake customer service representative. This scammer, posing as a representative from a legitimate company, gets in touch with a potential victim and instructs them to call a number for assistance. When the victim calls the number, the first scammer then directs them to download a program that allows the second party remote access to the victim's computer.
The scammer then pretends to "scan" the victim's computer and deceptively claims the computer has been or is at risk of being hacked. From there, the scammer requests the victim to open their financial accounts to find out whether there have been any unauthorized charges, a tactic done to choose which financial account is most profitable for targeting.
Once a victim is found, the scammer instructs its target to wait for a phone call from "the fraud department of the respective financial institution hosting that account," during which they will receive additional instructions.
For the con's second phase, a second impostor pretending to be from the referenced financial institution, "such as a bank or a brokerage firm," contacts the victim. "The scammer falsely informs the victim their computer and financial accounts have been accessed by a foreign hacker and the victim must move their money to a 'safe' third-party account, such as an account with the Federal Reserve or another U.S. government agency," the FBI said.
The scammer directs the victim to transfer money by means of a wire transfer, cash or cryptocurrency, often directly to overseas recipients. The scammer may instruct the victim to send several transactions over a duration of days or months. The trusting victim is instructed to not reveal to anyone "the real reason they are moving their money."
The third phase of the scam involves a third impostor, this time posing as either a federal government employee or a staff member of the Federal Reserve. According to the FBI, the third impostor may send an email or a letter on what seems to be official U.S. government letterhead to assuage suspicions. This third impostor frequently tells victims that their funds are "unsafe," and that transferring their money to an "alias" account is the only way to protect themselves from theft.
"Phantom Hacker scams are certainly complicated and involve a number of different people and steps. However, this is why they've been so successful," the Tom's Guide piece stated. "For this reason, you need to be extra careful when dealing with unsolicited phone calls, texts or emails."
Meanwhile, the FBI shared the following tips to guard against such tricky schemes:
CyberWar.news has more stories about hacking scams.
Watch this video that teaches how to protect your computer from viruses and hackers.
This video is from the Hackers Beware channel on Brighteon.com.