Beware of “Phantom Hacker” Scam
FBI Warns of New “Phantom Hacker” Scam
The FBI is warning consumers of a growing financial scam that’s being referred to as “The Phantom Hacker.”
The Phantom Hacker Scam: How it Works
According to the FBI, fraudsters are impersonating technology, banking, and government officials in an effort to convince victims that foreign hackers have gained access to their accounts. The Phantom Hacker scam is often perpetrated in three major steps:
Step 1: Tech Support Imposter.
In the first step, a scammer posing as a customer service representative from a well-known tech company will contact the victim through a phone call, text message, email, or pop-up window on the victim’s computer. They will direct the victim to install software on their computer that will allow the scammer remote access. The scammer pretends to run a virus scan on the victim’s computer and falsely claims the computer has a virus or is at risk of being hacked.
Next, the scammer requests the victim open their financial accounts to determine whether there have been unauthorized charges – a tactic the scammer uses to determine which account is more lucrative for targeting. The scammer tells the victim they will receive a call with further instructions from the fraud department of their financial institution.
Step 2: Financial Institution Imposter.
In the second step, a scammer poses as a representative of the financial institution mentioned above and contacts the victim. The scammer informs the victim that their computer and financial accounts have been accessed by a foreign hacker, and in order to protect their accounts they 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 victim is directed to transfer money via a wire transfer, cash, or wire conversion to cryptocurrency, often directly to overseas recipients. The victim is also told not to inform anyone of the real reason they are moving their money. The scammer may instruct the victim to send multiple transactions over a span of days or months.
Step 3: U.S. Government Imposter.
In the third step, the victim may be contacted by a scammer posing as the Federal Reserve or another U.S. Government agency. If the victim becomes suspicious, the scammer may send an email or a letter on what appears to be official U.S. Government letterhead to legitimize the scam. The scammer will continue to emphasize the victim’s funds are “unsafe” and they must be moved to a new “alias” account for protection until the victim concedes. Victims often suffer the loss of entire savings, retirement, and investment accounts under the guise of “protecting” their assets.
Protecting Yourself from Phantom Hacker Fraud
To protect yourself and loved ones from Phantom Hacker fraud, it’s essential to be aware of some common red flags:
- Unsolicited Communications. Be cautious of unexpected emails, phone calls, or messages from sources claiming to be official organizations. These unsolicited communications often contain malicious content.
- Urgent or Threatening Language. Scammers often use high-pressure tactics, claiming that immediate action is required, such as threatening legal consequences if you don’t comply.
- Requests for Personal Information. Legitimate organizations like the U.S. Government or your financial institution will never request sensitive personal information such as your Social Security numbers or financial details, via email or phone. They will also never request that you send money via wire transfer, cryptocurrency or a prepaid gift card.
- Suspicious Links. Avoid clicking on links in emails or messages unless you are sure of their authenticity. Phantom Hacker scammers often use convincing website replicas to trick victims.
- Too Good to Be True Offers. If an offer or opportunity seems too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers often dangle enticing rewards to lure victims.
COPFCU will never call, text or email you asking for personal or account information. If you receive a call, text or email appearing to be from COPFCU asking you to provide personal information, please do not reply or click on any links. Instead, call us directly to verify at 513.381.2677.