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vpnMentor was established in 2014 as an independent site reviewing VPN services and covering privacy-related stories. Today, our team of hundreds of cybersecurity researchers, writers, and editors continues to help readers fight for their online freedom in partnership with Kape Technologies PLC, which also owns the following products: ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, and Private Internet Access which may be ranked and reviewed on this website. The reviews published on vpnMentor are believed to be accurate as of the date of each article, and written according to our strict reviewing standards that prioritize the independent, professional and honest examination of the reviewer, taking into account the technical capabilities and qualities of the product together with its commercial value for users. The rankings and reviews we publish may also take into consideration the common ownership mentioned above, and affiliate commissions we earn for purchases through links on our website. We do not review all VPN providers and information is believed to be accurate as of the date of each article.

"Phantom Hacker" Scams Impact Senior Citizens

Zane Kennedy Published on 6th October 2023 Cybersecurity Researcher

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has warned of a sinister scam dubbed "Phantom Hacker", which has caused alarming financial damages, particularly among the senior community. This elaborate fraud scheme has evolved from typical tech support scams, integrating an intricate web of deceit involving the impersonation of tech support personnel, banking institutions, and even US government officials.

This multi-layered scam begins innocuously: unsuspecting individuals are contacted by fraudsters posing as tech support from reputable companies. Victims are instructed to download specific software, providing scammers remote access to their computer under the pretense of identifying potential threats or unauthorized activities. The fake tech support agent will then claim the victim’s PC has been or is at risk of being hacked, and ask to see financial accounts to check for unauthorized charges.

Once the scammer has surveyed the victim’s financial standing and deemed it worth proceeding, they will inform the victim they will receive a call from the fraud department of the relevant financial institution. Another scammer will then call the victim posing as a representative of the financial institution and instill fear by falsely alerting victims of a foreign hacking attempt on their accounts.

Victims are then directed to move their money to a "safe" account, often endorsed to be under the protection of a US government agency. In actuality, this is an account maintained by the scammers.

For those more skeptical and resistant, the scam escalates further. Another fraudster posing as a US government official enters the fray, sometimes even furnishing fabricated official documents to validate their claims.

Reports submitted to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) indicate the scale of these scams. Between January and June 2023, 19,000 tech support scam complaints were submitted to the FBI, leading to estimated losses exceeding $542 million. Disturbingly, nearly half of these victims were aged over 60, accounting for 66% of the total monetary loss.

In response, the FBI has mounted a public awareness campaign emphasizing the importance of vigilance. They strongly advise against engaging with unsolicited pop-ups, emails, or text messages. Importantly, they stress that no one should allow remote access to their computers or download software based on an unsolicited contact's recommendation.

A critical reminder issued is that the US government will never solicit transfers to foreign accounts nor ask for payments via cryptocurrency or gift/prepaid cards.

Those who suspect they have been targeted or have fallen victim to such scams are urged to promptly report to their local FBI field office and the FBI IC3. It’s recommended to provide as much information as possible, including the identity of the contacts, used communication methods, and transaction details.

About the Author

Zane is a Cybersecurity Researcher and Writer at vpnMentor. His extensive experience in the tech and cybersecurity industries provides readers with accurate and trustworthy news stories and articles. He aims to help individuals protect themselves through informative content and awareness of cybersecurity's crucial role in today's digital landscape.