PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The FBI is warning people of a rise in “phantom hackers” who are targeting senior citizens across the United States.
According to the FBI, from January through June of this year, there were 19,000 complaints submitted to its Internet Crime Complaint Center. More than $542 million was lost during that time frame.
There are three separate schemes that the FBI is tracking under phantom hacking.
The first is when an imposter poses as a customer support representative and tells the victim to download computer software. The hacker will then gain remote access to wipe out the person’s bank account.
“It is pretty much life savings for these victims, which is heartbreaking,” cybersecurity expert Kevin Ricci told 12 News.
Scammers will also pretend to be an employee of a credible financial institution. The scammer will tell a victim that their account has been hacked and they need to transfer their money to a secure account within the federal government.
Ricci said the scammers try to instill a sense of panic in their victims before offering assistance, saying, “Listen, we will log into your account and we will transfer that money for you, so we will keep it safe and you won’t lose anything.”
Lastly, scammers will pretend to be someone from the federal government itself. They will even send an official-looking email or letter to a person to make them believe that it is legitimate.
Ricci advises families to talk about the types of scams that are happening across the country.
“Young individuals who are a little more tech-savvy should certainly be talking to their parents and instill some knowledge in them to have a healthy dose of skepticism when they receive any type of message asking them to click on a link, open an attachment, transfer funds, or share sensitive information,” he explained.
Visit the FBI’s website to learn more about common scams and crimes.