Phoenix/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on April 24, 2024
FBI Phoenix Issues Alert on 'Phantom Hacker' Scam Targeting Arizonans, Elderly at High RiskSource: Google Street View

Arizonans, especially the elderly, are falling prey to a new conniving scam, the FBI Phoenix has warned. Termed the "Phantom Hacker" scam, this sophisticated ruse tricks victims into believing their accounts have been hacked and convinces them to hand over their life savings to fraudsters posing as bank and technology officials, according to an article by 12News. The scam starts with a fake security alert on a victim's computer, urging them to call a number that connects them to the scammers, who direct the victim to drain their accounts into a supposed "safe wallet" – often a crypto ATM.

FBI Assistant Special Agent Daniel Mayo highlighted the human toll of these scams, "The problem is, they target the elderly," he said, acknowledging the sophistication of the tactics which involve multiple scammers mimicking various institutions. The criminals buy time, knowing that the longer a victim delays reporting the incident, the slimmer the chances of recuperation, as per a statement obtained by 12News.

The fraudsters use a variety of methods to ensnare their victims, including calls, and compromised email addresses acquired through shady means, Mayo explained. Once victims grant access to their computers under the guise of resolving a security breach, the scammers gain actual sight of the victim's financial accounts. Following this, purported representatives from the victim's banking institution reach out, claiming an account compromise and directing the victim to transfer funds for safety, as detailed in an FBI Phoenix press release.

Mayo further noted that scammers operate from countries with antagonistic relations to the U.S., like Russia and the People's Republic of China, where they harbor a sense of impunity, according to a 12News interview. Victims reportedly can get their money back "three-quarters of the time," if they act swiftly, specifically within a couple days of the suspicious transaction. However, Mayo did not provide precise success rates.

To avoid falling victim, the FBI recommends caution against unsolicited pop-ups, emails, and calls from unknown numbers. They advise against providing strangers with remote access to computers or financial information, especially when prompted to transfer funds to unknown accounts. The importance of reporting any suspicious activity immediately to the FBI through was underscored, with Mayo emphasizing, "The quicker you report it, the more likely you are to get your money back." In addition, the need for younger individuals to look out for older relatives and make them aware of these scams has never been greater, as stated by Mayo in the 12News report.