Detail of using a telephone keypadMarch 31, 2020

What is Vishing? How to Recognize Voice Phishing Phone Calls

Vishing or voice phishing is an elaborate scam that targets individuals and businesses with the goal of robbing them of their money and personal information. According to statistics for 2019, phishing scams increased by 65%, with 76% of businesses reporting that they were victims of phishing phone calls. What is even more troubling is that 63% of the global population admitted they had no idea what vishing or phishing is and how to identify it. With that in mind, here are a few things you should know about phishing phone calls and vishing.

What Is Voice Phishing Or Vishing

While phishing can take many forms (phone calls, emails or text messages), vishing exclusively uses Internet phone services (VoIP) to perform the scam. 

Phishing phone calls originate from scammers who pretend to be government officials, employees of well-known and reputable companies (aka enterprise spoofing) or family members in crisis (aka relationship fraud). The goal is to get unsuspecting strangers to reveal personal and financial information by using all sorts of manipulative tactics.

The scammers, who are often trained actors, rely on pre-rehearsed scripts to induce an emotional response caused by fear, panic or excitement and thus make their victims feel comfortable or obligated to reveal confidential information. They pretend to be authority figures who can offer certain benefits or help fix a problem. Vishers use spoofing to replicate the numbers of legitimate companies and businesses, ruining the reputations of brands across the world.

There are several ways people get scammed. In some scenarios, you receive a call from a real person. Other cases involve getting an automated call from a robot. Finally, scammers often use a combination of these two. Recently, there have been reports of a more advanced vishing scam involving artificial intelligence vishing, the example being a UK-based scam where an actor covered his voice using voice generation software to pretend to be an executive from a firm’s parent company in Germany. The visher asked the company’s CEO to authorize the transfer of funds as a temporary loan. Considering that most vishing calls use voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) technology combined with spoofing, it makes them almost impossible to trace. 

How To Recognize Vishing & Phishing Phone Calls

To recognize whether you are dealing with vishing and phishing phone calls, we will give you a few examples of what some of the most common scam scenarios sound like.

Government Scams

Impersonating government officials might be one of the most popular scenarios. According to the FTC, there have been almost 1.3 million reports involving government scams since 2014. Some of the most frequent phishing and vishing frauds involve calls from the IRS informing citizens that they owe taxes. The caller then threatens the victim with jail time, deporting or revoking their license if they do not provide personal information or buy a pre-paid gift card. Other common examples of government fraud involve Medicare and the Social Security Administration. The Medicare scam usually requires you to confirm your personal information for insurance purposes while the Social Security Administration scam needs you to provide your private data in order not to lose your Social Security benefits.

What is important to remember is that the government will never contact you over the phone regarding any important matter. They will NEVER ask you to provide or confirm your personal information or offer you to buy gift cards via phone.

Telemarketing Scams

Telemarketing phishing and vishing phone calls may come in many different variations, including:

  • Calls from a car insurance company informing you that your warranty is about to expire.
  • Calls from various charity organizations asking for a donation.
  • Calls from credit card companies informing you of reduced interest rates.
  • Calls involving lottery winnings or free vacation offers.

These types of phishing phone scams are most likely to succeed because they include asking for a seemingly insignificant piece of information in return for receiving some sort of benefit. 

The FTC compiled a list of commonly used lines that can help you recognize a telemarketing scam. Some of them are:

  • You won big money in a foreign lottery.
  • You do not need to check our company with anyone.
  • You have been specially selected
  • You have to make up your mind right away.
  • You will get a free bonus if you buy our product.

Bank Scams 

These types of vishing calls usually revolve around an actor pretending to be a bank employee or someone who works for a credit card company or some other financial institution. The caller will try to persuade you to reveal your account info or personal data by telling you that there has been a security breach in the bank or that they are calling to offer you a lower interest rate or special bonus as a one-time deal and you are about to miss out if you do not react right away. Similar to telemarketing scams, if the caller insists on your immediate reaction or asks for your personal information, you can be sure that you are dealing with a visher. 

Tech Support Scams

Like the name says, tech support phone phishing scams involve calls from people pretending to work as tech support. They often use names of renowned companies to get you to trust them, after which they inform you about a problem they have detected with your account. The actor will proceed to ask for remote access to your computer so that they could easily deal with the issue. Finally, the operator will ask you to cover the charges for the provided service.

How To Protect Yourself Against Voice Phishing Phone Scams

There are several ways you can avoid falling victim to phone phishing scammers. The simplest way is not to answer when you see an unknown number calling you. However, if your job involves communicating with clients over the phone, you will not be able to avoid picking up the phone forever. What you can do is check the unknown number before calling it back. Our website can help you determine whether a call came from a reliable source – just enter the number in the search bar and find out who it belongs to. Other ways you can protect yourself from phishing calls is to contact the FTC and put your number on the National Do Not Call Registry or check with your network provider about number blocking options. And if you confirm that the number that called you belongs to a scammer, be sure to report it to the FCT or any other law enforcement agency.