June 25, 2024

An Overview of the “Ghost Hacker” Scams Affecting the Elderly and Causing Losses of Life Savings

The “Ghost Hacker” scam, an escalating trend according to a warning from the FBI, disproportionately targets elderly individuals. This form of scam is an extension of regular tech support scams as the swindlers pose as representatives from trustworthy tech support services, government bodies and financial institutions to mislead their victims and pilfer their most profitable accounts. From January to June 2023, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Centre (IC3) received around 19,000 scam-related complaints leading to estimated losses totaling over $542 million. At least 50% of complaints reported to IC3 were from individuals over 60 years of age, accounting for two-thirds of total losses. As of August 2023, the losses due to scam cases have already surpassed those of the previous year by 40%.

The Mechanics of the Scam

Stage 1 – Posing as Technical Support

– An impostor pretending to be a legitimate company’s tech support representative contacts the target via text, phone call, email, or pop-up ad on the computer providing a number they need to call for “assistance.”
– Once the target calls the provided number, the scammer convinces them to download a particular software that grants the scammer remote access to their computer. At this point, the scammer feigns running a virus scan on their computer, alleging a potential hacking threat.
– The scammer then directs the target to open their bank accounts to verify any unauthorized transactions. This is a method employed by the scammer to identify the most profitable account to rob.

Stage 2 – Faking as Financial Institution Representative

– A Fraudster disguised as a representative from the victim’s bank contacts the victim falsely stating that their computer has been hacked by international actors necessitating the need to relocate their money to a secure third party account.
– The scammer instructs the victim to move their money via wire transfer, cash, or cryptocurrency, with the majority of these transactions directed to offshore recipients. Depending on the circumstances, the scammer instructs the victim to split these transactions over several days or months.
– The scammer advises the victim to keep silent about the actual reasons for transferring their money.

Stage 3 – Impersonating U.S. Government Official

– The victim is contacted by a scammer mimicking a Federal Reserve or other U.S. government agency employee. To appear more legitimate, the scammer sends an email or official-looking letter on U.S. Government stationery.
– The scammer constantly emphasizes the need for the victim’s funds to be moved to a new “alias” account ostensibly for protection, essentially coercing the victim into compliance.

“>![Ghost Hacker Scam Flowchart – depicting step by step movement of scheme](https://investmentshoax.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/05/230929.png)<"

Steps to Secure Yourself

– Eschew unsolicited pop-ups, text message links, and email attachments.
– Do not call any numbers found within pop-ups, texts, or emails.
– Do not download software dictated by an unknown source.
– Do not consent to unknown individuals remotely accessing your computer.
– The U.S. Government does not solicit money in the form of wire transfers to foreign accounts, cryptocurrency, or gift/prepaid cards.

If You Fall Victim to a Scam, Report it

If you fall prey to such activities, please notify your local FBI field office and the FBI IC3 at www.ic3.gov. Please be as detailed about the incident as possible.

– Provide the individual or company’s name that initially contacted you.
– Document and provide all methods of communication used such as websites, emails, and contact numbers.
– Relate any bank account numbers and names to which funds were wired.

Visit the FBI IC3 website to learn more about additional scam warning alerts.

Frequently Asked Questions

What steps to follow to report a scam?

If you suspect that you’ve fallen prey to a scam, immediately notify your local FBI field office and the FBI IC3 at www.ic3.gov. Remember to document and provide comprehensive detail about the incident.

What safety measures to adapt to avoid being a scam victim?

It’s vital to be cautious and not engage with unsolicited pop-ups, text message links, or email attachments. Refrain from calling numbers found within pop-ups, texts, or emails. Furthermore, never download software provided by unfamiliar individuals and do not allow them access to your computer remotely. Lastly, note that the U.S. Government will never ask you to send funds via foreign account wire transfers, cryptocurrency, or gift/prepaid cards.

How does the ‘Ghost Hacker’ scam work?

The ‘Ghost Hacker’ scam operates in three stages. Initially, con artists pose as technical support representatives from a legitimate company and coerce the target into calling them for assistance. The scammer then convinces the victim to granting them remote access to their computer and consequently gains access to the victim’s financial accounts. In the subsequent stage, the scammer disguises themselves as a representative from the victim’s financial institutions and tricks the victim into transferring their money into a ‘secure’ overseas account. Finally, the scammer impersonates a U.S. government official to legitimize the scam and continuously pressures the victim to transfer their funds into a new ‘alias’ account under the pretext of protection.