These days, online scams come in all varieties—and the best protection against cyber-crime is simple awareness. Reports show the number of robocalls grew by a staggering 325% around the world in 2018. Be sure that you know about the latest online vulnerabilities and attacks; and, if you’re a business leader or IT professional, make sure your team members are similarly aware.
Case in point: One of the most insidious and common types of cyber attack is what’s known as vishing. Many individuals haven’t even heard this term, but in this post we’ll offer a quick overview—as well as some tips to prevent yourself from becoming a vishing victim.
What is Vishing?
Unlike phishing, a type of scam that typically happens over email, vishing actually takes place over the phone. Indeed, the term vishing is short for voice phishing.
Here’s how it works. You’ll receive a phone call—sometimes from an automated robot, sometimes from an actual human being—that will try to trick you into divulging key information. This information might include a credit card number, passwords for online accounts, or your Social Security Number.
This may sound transparent and obvious—like something nobody could possibly fall for. The problem is, scammers have become fairly convincing and sophisticated; they will generally pretend like they represent your bank, the government, the IRS, or some other trusted institution, such as the manufacturer of your phone or car.
For example, your vishing scammer may pretend like they represent Apple, and are calling to fill you in on an urgent security breach. Or, they may pretend like they are your bank, calling you with the pressing need to reset your password. Many US residents receive spam calls from the IRS or medical service providers demanding social security numbers or other sensitive personal data.
Identifying Vishing Scams
Convincing though these calls can be, there are some common red flags you can look for. Some of these include:
- The caller will often claim to represent a really big-name institution—Apple, Microsoft, Verizon, etc.
- They will ask for you to “verify” your identity by providing passwords or other account information.
- They may also demand that you provide other personal information, like your SSN or your date of birth.
- They may sometimes say that they need access to your computer, or they may even ask for a credit card or banking information.
Again, it’s important to remember that vishing scams can happen either with real, live callers or with automated messages. Always be alert!
A Simple Way to Avoid Vishing Scams
If you ever receive a call and are unsure whether or not it’s a scam, there is a simple protocol you can use to keep yourself safe:
- Don’t answer unrecognized numbers; let it go to voicemail.
- If you’ve answered, hang up on the current call as soon as you realize it’s a spam call.
- Look up the phone number of the entity in question; don’t ever use the one the caller provided you with.
- Using the number you found, initiate a new call.
This may take an extra minute or two, but if the call was legit, you can ultimately find your way forward—and if it wasn’t legit, then you can protect yourself from identity theft or other ill effects.
Awareness of Cyber Crime
There are all kinds of scammers out there today—and the best way to keep yourself, your family, and/or your team safe is to know all their tricks and be ever vigilant.
Make sure you and the people close to you know what vishing is—and that you are prepared to handle vishing scams appropriately, using the simple guidelines we have laid out here.