Have you ever answered the phone and heard an automated voice message on the other end informing you of ways “to get rich fast”? Do you ever find strange voicemails from unknown numbers telling you there are issues with your banking information or finances? These are all common forms of vishing. Vishing is a verbal scam done through voicemails and phone calls that try to deceive you into disclosing personal information for financial gain or identity theft. Vishing is only becoming more and more common; anyone and everyone is a target; and it can be very destructive to your wellbeing if you become a victim. Even if you feel that you can spot a scam from a mile away, it’s in everyone’s best interest to be aware of vishing and understand the alarming increase in prevalence. The best defense is to know how to identify a vishing scam and how to avoid becoming one of its victims.
What is Vishing?
Vishing is done by cyber-criminals who want to gain personal information, like one’s finances or government identification (think social security, home address, etc) through deceptive voice messages and phone calls. Vishing is actually a form of phishing, which are types of cyber security breaches most commonly disguised within emails or text messages. Vishing is specifically a verbal scam, hence the “v”. The common ground between all forms of phishing is the goal: to steal people’s identity or financial gain.
Unfortunately, vishing is becoming much more common. The FBI’s Internet Crime Report found that over the last 5 years phishing crimes – including vishing – have increased nearly 13 times with a total of $44 million in losses in 2021. The report also noted that phishing was found to be number one of the top 5 most reported crimes in the United States since 2019.
How to Identify and Avoid a Vishing Attack?
First and foremost, always trust your gut. If you receive a random voice message regarding your finances or personal identification and your senses are telling you that something seems off, whether you’re being offered a financial opportunity that is too good to be true or you’re suddenly being flagged for fraudulent activity, simply hang up the phone or delete the voicemail. More often than not your instincts are right and you have averted disaster. In addition, most banks or services you subscribe to will have specific ways of communicating sensitive information with you.
Vishing scammers have experience with being deceptive and manipulative. They take advantage of powerful human emotions to trick you into giving up your personal information. They might use scare tactics, trying to convince you that there is a problem with your finances, your tax return, your insurance, etc. They may try to impersonate a bank or government representative asking for personal information to ‘update your profile’. Legitimate institutions would never ask for your information this way. In any of these circumstances you should request proof of the caller’s identification or conduct your own investigation to see if you can authenticate the person on the other end of the phone line. Even worse is the latest ‘Grandparent scams’ which fall into the world of vishing. This scam is when a scammer poses as a panicked child or grandchild who needs financial assistance right away to escape an emergency situation. AARP reported that these scams are on the rise, with nearly $41 million in reported losses from 2018.
Vishing attacks have been around for some time and will likely continue to exist. It’s important to stay educated on all types of scams, new and old, and to stay vigilant against them to avoid becoming a victim. WOT can help you stay proactive in staying safe online, all the time. Try our extension for free today.