The FBI’s Phoenix division is alerting the public to an increasingly prevalent scam, dubbed the “Phantom Hacker” scam, that has already caused several Arizonans, particularly the elderly, to lose their life savings. This sophisticated fraud involves tricking victims into believing that their bank accounts have been compromised by foreign hackers.

The scam unfolds in three distinct stages, beginning with the victim receiving an unsolicited communication—often a pop-up message or an email—claiming to be from a tech support service. The message urges the victim to call a provided customer support number. Once contact is made, the person on the other end, posing as a tech support agent, instructs the victim to download a remote access program to supposedly rid their computer of viruses.

This access allows the scammer to conduct a fake virus scan and falsely claim that the victim’s computer is at imminent risk of being hacked. The scammer then uses this pretense to persuade the victim to log into their bank accounts under the guise of securing them, thereby obtaining information about where the victim’s funds are stored.

In the second phase, another scammer posing as a representative from the victim’s bank informs them that their accounts have been breached by a foreign hacker. The victims are then advised to transfer their funds into a “safe” third-party account to protect their savings. The method of transfer suggested usually involves wire transfers, cash, or cryptocurrencies, and the transfers are often directed to overseas accounts.

The third and final stage involves further manipulation where the scammer, pretending to be from a credible government agency like the Federal Reserve, contacts the victim to finalize the deceit. They may use fake official documents to alleviate any suspicions from the victim.
The FBI has issued advice to help the public protect themselves from falling victim to such scams:
• Avoid clicking on unsolicited pop-ups, links in text messages, and email attachments.
• Do not follow instructions to call phone numbers provided in unsolicited messages.
• Refrain from downloading software or allowing remote access to your computer at the request of an unknown individual.
• Be aware that the U.S. government will never ask for transfers via wire, cryptocurrency, or prepaid gift cards.
This scam is part of a broader trend of tech support scams that have cost victims across the nation more than $500 million since 2023. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is an available resource where victims can report these scams.

Timely reporting increases the chances of recovering lost funds and can help prevent further victimization. For those who suspect they might be a target of the “Phantom Hacker” scam or similar frauds, it is crucial to report the incident immediately to local law enforcement and the FBI via IC3 at