Phantom Hacker Scams On The Rise, Target Elderly

The Phantom Hacker Scams
Scams known as "Phantom hacker" that target seniors are increasing.

Phantom hacker scams is a specific type of fraud that aims at convincing the victim to transfer the funds due to the non-existent hacker threat. Over the last few months, such scams started targeting senior citizens, which can lead to significant financial losses. Let’s have a look at how this works, and how to avoid being scammed.

The Phantom Hacker Scams

The FBI has warned the public about a recent increase in phantom hacker scams nationwide. This fraudulent activity mainly targets senior citizens and is an evolved version of tech support fraud. Back in August 2023, losses from such scams have increased by 40% compared to the same period in 2022. For specific numbers, during the first half of 2023, nearly 19,000 individuals reported falling victim to tech support scams, resulting in over $542 million in losses.

According to the statistics, scammers often target older adults. Around 66% of total financial losses are suffered by victims over 60. Seniors usually have much more savings than younger age groups, making them more attractive targets for criminals. Additionally, older adults are more mindful of potential life-saving risks, making them vulnerable to calculated scams.

How Do These Scams Work?

The scam process is divided into three stages, each aiming to increase the victim’s level of trust. The perpetrators behind phantom hacker scams employ social engineering to deceive their victims.

Image of algorithm of actions of scammers
Algorithm of actions of scammers

1. Initial Contact. Fraudsters pose as computer technicians from well-known companies. They convince victims that their computers have serious issues, particularly malware, and that their financial accounts are also at risk due to foreign hackers.

2. Follow-Up. Accomplices then impersonate officials from financial institutions or even the U.S. government. They persuade victims to transfer their money from supposedly vulnerable accounts to new “safe” accounts, all under the guise of government protection of their assets.

3. The Deception. Obviously, there was never any foreign hacker. Instead of safe accounts, the scammers now fully control the victims’ money. The funds vanish together with the “technicians” and “govt agents”, leaving victims devastated.

Safety Recommendations

To summarize, it is worth remembering the rules of telephone communication again. Here is a list of “Don’ts” that you should follow to minimize the risk of financial loss:

  • Don’t Trust Unsolicited Calls. Be cautious when receiving an unexpected call claiming to be from tech support or a financial institution. Scammers often impersonate legitimate organizations to gain your trust. To protect yourself, please end the call without providing any personal details. Additionally, consider setting up a blocker for such calls.
  • Don’t Share Personal Information. Never share sensitive information when you receive a phone call unless you initiate the call. Sensitive information includes your credit card information, bank account number, social security number, or passwords. Before sharing any sensitive information, verify the identity of the person independently.
  • Don’t Rush Decisions. Scammers often use urgency to pressure victims into making hasty decisions, resulting in funds being transferred without understanding the situation. Take your time. Ask questions, seek advice from trusted sources, and don’t let anyone rush you into making financial commitments.
  • Don’t Transfer Funds. Proceed cautiously if someone asks you to transfer money based on an unsolicited request. Contact your financial institution directly using official contact information to confirm the transaction.
  • Instruct Your Elderly About the Threats. Aside from showing more trust towards strangers, older generations often struggle to find security news in time. Consider explaining the dangers and the ways to understand they’re talking to a fraudulent person.

Phantom Hacker Scams On The Rise, Target Elderly

By Stephanie Adlam

I write about how to make your Internet browsing comfortable and safe. The modern digital world is worth being a part of, and I want to show you how to do it properly.

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