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Info@NationalCyberSecurity

FBI warns of “Phantom Hacker” scam | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker


(COLORADO) — The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Denver office is warning the public of a new scam designed to make people believe their financial accounts have been hacked and get them to move their money to an account controlled by the scammers.

According to the FBI, the scam dubbed “The Phantom Hacker,” is often run in three major steps:

STEP ONE:

FBI Denver said the scammer poses as customer support from a legitimate technology company and initiates contact with the victim through either a phone call, text, email, or a pop-up window on their computer and instructs the victim to call a number for “assistance.”

The victim calls the number and is instructed to download a program allowing the scammer access to the victim’s computer where they will then pretend to run a virus scanner and report the computer has been hacked or is at risk of being hacked.

The scammer then asks the victim to open their financial accounts to determine if there have been any unauthorized charges, a tactic the FBI said is to allow the scammer to determine which account is the most lucrative for targeting.

The scammer then tells the victim their financial institution’s fraud department will contact them with further instructions, bringing the victim to step two.

STEP TWO:

A scammer posing as the victim’s financial institution such as a bank, or brokerage firm will contact the victim. The scammer tells the victim that their computer and financial accounts have been accessed and that the victim will need to move their money to a “safe” third-party account, such as the Federal Reserve or another U.S. agency.

The victim is asked to move the money via a wire transfer, cash, or cryptocurrency, often directly to overseas recipients. The scammer tells the victim to not tell anyone the real reason they are moving the money and may have the victim send the money in multiple transfers over the course of days or months.

STEP THREE:

The victim may be contacted by a scammer posing as the Federal Reserve or another U.S. agency. If the victim becomes suspicious the scammer may send an email or letter on what appears to be official letterhead to legitimize the scam.

The scammer will emphasize the victim’s funds are “unsafe” and must be moved to a new “alias” account for protection and will continue to do so until the victim agrees.

IMPACTS:

The FBI said a victim in El Paso County recently reported a loss of $99,000 to the scam. The victim received a pop-up alert on their computer that led the victim to call someone allegedly from tech support who told the victim their computer had been accessed by criminals. The victim was connected to a person pretending to be from their bank who advised the victim to move their money to a cryptocurrency wallet.

According to the FBI, from January through June of 2023, there were 19,000 tech support scams reported to the FBI with more than $542 million lost during that time. The losses already exceed 2022 losses by 40%. The FBI said almost 50% of victims were older than 60 years old.

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF:

The FBI released a few steps people can take to protect themselves from “The Phantom Hacker” scam:

  • Do not 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.
  • The US Government will never request you send money to them via wire transfer, cryptocurrency, or gift/prepaid cards.

If you are a victim of this scam, the FBI asks that you report these fraudulent or suspicious activities to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at www.ic3.gov. Be sure to include as much information as possible including:

  • The name of the person or company that contacted you
  • Methods of communication used such as websites, emails, or telephone numbers
  • the bank account number where the funds were wired and the recipient’s name

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