The FBI is sounding the alarm about a growing threat: cash theft scams that netted unsuspecting victims a staggering $542 million in the first half of 2023 alone.
These scams often start with a seemingly legitimate notification that appears to come from your bank or even a government agency, alerting you to a computer breach.
But as most savvy technology users might suspect, these are pure inventions.
Here’s the new low: “Trust me, I’m here to help”
Scammers launch sneaky “phantom hacker” campaigns, often targeting older adults. Your ultimate goal? They manipulate their victims into emptying their own bank accounts.
This scary method is an evolution of long-standing tech support scams in which victims are startled by sudden pop-up messages warning them that their computer has been compromised.
But here they’ve upped the ante. Fraudsters have diversified their masquerade repertoire. Gone are the days of fake technical support personas.
Now they impersonate bank managers or government officials to lull you into a false sense of security before they strike.
Scammers launch sneaky “phantom hacker” campaigns, often targeting older adults. Your ultimate goal? They manipulate their victims into emptying their own bank accounts
A look into their playbook
Imagine the following scenario: Your phone rings and someone claiming to be a helpful representative from your bank is on the other end of the line.
They tell the harrowing story of a hacker from a distant, foreign land lurking menacingly in your account. Panic is spreading.
They then suggest that you transfer your money to a “safe” government account for protection. Remember, it’s for your own good.
Don’t fall for it. Once you do this, your account and funds will be under the control of the scammer.
The FBI’s alarming statistics illustrate the scale of these scams: 19,000 complaints related to tech support scams in just six months, resulting in $542 million in losses.
A heartbreaking detail? Almost half of those defrauded were people aged 60 and over. You have to be on your guard!
Shield yourself: The game plan
Remain skeptical: If you are confronted with unsolicited emails, text messages, or pop-ups warning you of a data breach, banking problem, or account problem, you should stop and evaluate. Chances are good that it is a scam.
Confirm the source: Before taking any action, confirm the alert with your bank or the alleged agency. Always rely on official phone numbers or websites.
This sinister scheme is an evolution of long-standing tech support scams in which victims are startled by sudden pop-up messages warning them that their computer has been compromised – and then the scammers demand payment in exchange to share the person’s computer
Stop These Transfers: No U.S. government agency will direct you to send money abroad or purchase gift cards.
Check your bank statements regularly: Checking your financial statements regularly can help you identify unauthorized activity early.
Use two-factor authentication (2FA): Increase the security of your accounts by enabling 2FA wherever possible.
Educate and warn others: Share information about these scams with friends and family, especially those who may be more vulnerable.
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Avoid remote access: Never allow unknown people to take control of your computer remotely.
Password protection: Regularly update and diversify your passwords with a combination of letters, numbers and symbols.
Install a reputable antivirus program: Protect your devices with up-to-date security software.
One last protective measure
Notify the FBI if you are targeted or become a victim of such a scam. Reporting the incident could be invaluable.
In my conversation with FBI leaders, I was assured that each report would be carefully reviewed.
By sharing your experiences, you will provide authorities with the information they need to catch these crooks.
Beware of the Heartbreak Hustle – The Romance Scam
While tech support and banking scams are rampant, another type of scam steals more than just money: the “romance scam.”
In a digital age where many are looking for love online, scammers have found a way to prey on the hearts of the unsuspecting.
How it works:
Sudden love: Scammers set up fake profiles on dating sites or apps and lure their victims with charming profiles and attractive photos.
Building Trust: They invest weeks, even months, building trust by telling often made-up personal stories and pretending to fall in love.
The sob story: Once trust is established, they tell a heartbreaking story, such as a sudden medical emergency, and ask for financial help.
Protect your heart and your wallet
Profile Check: Reverse profile photos on the Internet. Scammers often reuse images from other websites.
Avoid oversharing: Be careful when sharing personal or financial information with someone you just met online.
Never send money: No matter how compelling the story, never send money or gifts to someone you haven’t met in person.
True love shouldn’t cost anything. If someone you met online starts asking for money, it’s time to question their intentions.