Vishing: How to Protect Yourself from Phone Fraud

First there was phishing (Email). Then came smishing (Phishing through SMS). Now, there’s a new highly effective and targeted form of cybercrime that is stealing people’s personal information and wreaking havoc on the corporate world.

The shift to remote working, led by the Covid-19 pandemic, has created a conducive environment for scammers to target victims as they take advantage of technical vulnerabilities and security gaps.

What is vishing?

So, what exactly entails a vishing scam and how does this type of cybercrime actually work? A combination of the words “voice” and “phishing”, vishing – also known as “phone spear phishing” - is a type of phone scam that attempts to trick victims into giving out personal or sensitive information. The end goal of a vishing scammer is to steal a victim’s identity or money.

One of the main reasons why vishing has been so effective lies in the social engineering tactics that it uses. People naturally tend to trust a human voice more than an email or text message and by doing so, they often let their guard down. It’s important to note that consumers are not the only ones targeted by vishing scams. In fact, many vishers, or vishing scammers, target businesses with the aim of gaining access to not only private user information but valuable data and large sums of money.

Common vishing tactics

Some of the most common vishing scams involve fraudsters posing as telemarketers, bank employees, government officials, tech support, industry expert or authority. Often the case, the caller will create a sense of urgency or emergency and put pressure on the victim to divulge sensitive information right away.

It’s a common scenario. Your phone rings and the number that appears has a familiar area code or company name next to it. When you answer, you may either hear someone on the other end or a robotic voice tell you that your bank account has been compromised. They will likely urge you to take quick action to secure your account by calling another phone number and providing all of your sensitive information in order for them to block fraudulent transactions.

The above-mentioned scenario is a classic example of a bank fraud vishing scam, which has become one of the most common types. Other scam artists may use unpaid taxes, prizes, law enforcement, employment opportunities or debt collection as a way to lure victims in.

Dangers and consequences

Not only has the number of vishing attacks risen sharply this year, but the nature and techniques used in these scams are becoming a lot more sophisticated. Many vishing scams use artificial intelligence, social media and fake VPNs as tools to get victims to give up valuable information.

How to avoid vishing scams

It may sound cliché – but using common sense is your best first line of defence against vishing scams. If the offer sounds too good to be true or out of the ordinary, the chances are that you are being targeted.

Yet, there are some steps you can take to prevent yourself from becoming a victim. The best advice is to not respond to any unsolicited calls of any kind, or hang up as soon as you notice something suspicious. If you are unsure, you can always hang up and do your due diligence to make sure that everything checks out. A little bit of research can go a long way in keeping you safe.

If you recognize a vishing scam or have already provided financial information, you should report it to the authorities and your bank immediately. You may need to freeze your account and ensure that future charges are blocked until a new account is set up.

By staying informed and aware of new vishing threats, you will be able to see all the red flags before you pick up the phone.

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Joumana Saad is an American freelance journalist and media personality based in Dubai. She writes about financial, media and technology news and topics.

This article is intended to provide general information about finance and investments and does not replace or should be taken as professional financial advice. The content reflects the view of the author of the article and does not necessarily reflect the views of Citi or its employees, and we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information presented in the article except information on Citibank N.A. – UAE products referenced herein.
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