DENVER (KDVR) — Scammers continue to use the latest technology to hack bank accounts and retirement savings.
The Federal Trade Commission reports consumers lost nearly $6 billion to fraud in 2021, up 70% over the previous year.
The FBI is currently investigating the so-called “phantom hacker” scam, which tricks victims into providing access to their computers so malicious software can be used to hack financial accounts.
FBI Supervisory Special Agent Brian Blauser told FOX31 that scammers pose as bank employees who warn victims that someone else is hacking their account and offer to help them. Initial contact is made via email or phone.
“They instantly kind of try to instill some fear in you as the victim and say, ‘Oh my gosh, we see a lot of fraudulent activity in your bank account. You know, we need access to your computer to help clean this up,’” Blauser said.
Once the scammer gains access to the computer, malicious software is installed that enables them to hack into personal accounts.
A second phase of the scam allows the crooks additional access.
“They say, ‘There’s activity happening with your bank account, they’re trying to move the money, right now we can see that on the backend — but I’m going to transfer you to somebody in the fraud department at the bank,'” Blauser said.
Of course, the other bank employee is also an impostor ready to take the victim’s bank routing and account number and password information.
Bank scammers are ‘highly sophisticated’
Hundreds of scammers can work together to form a fake banking network. The FBI said many are based outside of the U.S.
“It is highly sophisticated. They are continually refining their methods and the script they’re utilizing to really instill that fear and urgency, to make you feel like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to move this money because somebody’s trying to take it’ — when in reality, you’re sending it to the bad guys,” Blauser said.
The FBI provides information about how to identify and avoid scams and ways to report crime and fraud.
The FBI said the best way to protect your money from scammers is to avoid responding to random emails or phone calls and contact your bank yourself if you have any questions or concerns. Scammers may try to tell victims to avoid contacting anyone at the bank due to spies or hackers on the staff, but the FBI said that is an unrealistic scenario.