What is Vishing? [All You Need to Know]

Daniel Attoe
Daniel Attoe

Updated · Aug 15, 2022

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When it comes to online security, many people are aware of the risks of phishing emails. However, fewer people are familiar with the danger of vishing scams.

So, let’s dig into this scam technique to unearth what it is all about.

What is Vishing?

Vishing is a social engineering attack that relies on voice communications to trick victims into divulging sensitive information. The name comes from "voice" and "phishing," a similar type of fraud that uses email messages instead of phone calls.

A common vishing example involves an attacker posing as a legitimate organization or individual. They often use spoofed caller ID information to make it appear that they are calling from a trustworthy source. 

They may also use automated calls or recordings to give the impression that they are a large company or government agency. Once they have gained their victim's trust, they will try to obtain personal information. This can include: 

  • Social Security numbers
  • credit card details
  • or login credentials

A vishing attack is usually hard to detect and can have serious consequences for its victims. For example, fraudsters can use stolen login credentials to access sensitive accounts. Or they can use Social Security numbers to commit identity theft. It is important to be aware of the risks of vishing and take steps to protect yourself from these attacks.

How Common Is Vishing?

Regrettably, vishing is a very real and increasingly common type of cybercrime.

Criminals are finding new and innovative ways to exploit the vulnerabilities of both individuals and businesses. 

In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received more than 20,000 reports of vishing scams, with victims losing $26 million. And according to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, voice phishing attacks increased by more than 50% the following year. 

By the first quarter of 2022, vishing had passed business email compromise (BEC) to become the second most reported response-based email threat.

With more and more people working remotely, vishers are finding it easier to target their victims.

Vishing vs. Smishing vs. Phishing

Vishing, smishing, and phishing are all types of fraud that use electronic communications to trick people into giving away personal information or money. 

Phishing is the most common type, typically involving an email or website that looks legitimate. The main difference between vishing vs phishing is that here voice calls are used instead of emails or websites. Smishing uses text messages instead of emails or websites. 

All three types of fraud can cost their victims a lot of money, so it's essential to be aware of how they work and how to protect yourself. 

Here's a quick rundown of each type of fraud: 

Phishing

With phishing scams, criminals typically send out mass emails that look like they're from a legitimate company or set up fake websites. They'll often use clever tricks to get you to click on a link or attachment. If you do, your computer is infected with malware, or the link leads you to a page where you're asked to enter personal information. 

Phishing attacks can be very sophisticated, so it's important to be vigilant about any emails or websites that seem suspicious. 

Vishing

Vishing attacks are similar to phishing attacks but use voice calls instead of emails or websites. The caller may claim to be from a legitimate company and try to trick you into giving your personal information or money. Vishing attacks can be compelling, so don't give out personal information unless you're sure you know who you're talking to. 

Smishing

These attacks are similar to phishing attacks but use text messages instead of emails or websites. The text will often look like it's from a legitimate company and try to trick you into giving out personal information or money. The message may say there's a problem with your account or you need to verify something.

As with phishing and vishing, smishing attacks can be very persuasive. 

How Vishing Works?

When you get a phone call from someone you don't know, it's always a bit suspicious. You wonder how they got your number and what they want from you. In many cases, these calls are harmless—but sometimes, a vishing attack is what you may be facing.

A visher might pose as a bank or government official and try to panic you into giving them sensitive information like your Social Security number. Or they might promise a free vacation if you give them your credit card number. Either way, they're counting on you not taking the time to verify their identity before giving them what they want.

Scammers can make their vishing call seem more legitimate by using caller ID spoofing to make it look like they're calling from a trusted source. They might also leave an automated message on your voicemail, telling you to call back a certain number. If you do call back, the person on the other end will try to rush you into giving them information before you have time to think about it.

Sometimes, vishing calls can also lead to malware being installed on your phone or computer. The scammer might trick you into downloading a malicious file or even convince you to give them remote access to your device. Once they have access, they can do anything—from stealing your personal information to holding your device for ransom.

Vishing Scams

There are various types of vishing attacks. Let’s look at each of them briefly. 

Bank or Credit Card Account Problem

One common type of vishing is when a fraudster pretends to be from your bank or credit card company. They may call you and claim that you have a canceled card, a hacked account, or there is suspicious activity on your account. 

The fraudster will then ask for sensitive personal information. Once they have this information, they can use it to steal your identity or access your accounts.

Unsolicited Loan or Investment Offers

What a vishing attack is going to look like can differ according to its various subtypes. This type comes with a shady loan or investment offer. Eventually, the scammer will ask for personal information, so they can "verify" your identity or process the loan. They may also ask you to wire money to them. 

Once they have your information, they can use it to steal your money or identity. They may also sell it to other criminals.

Medicare or Social Security Scam

One of the most common targets for vishing attacks is your Social Security number. Attackers will often pose as representatives from the Social Security Administration and try to trick people into revealing their Social Security numbers. 

They may claim that the victim's Social Security number has been compromised or that they need to verify their account information. While Social Security numbers are not necessarily secret, cybercriminals can use them to commit identity theft or fraud.

IRS Tax Scam

IRS tax scams are a type of vishing campaign where scammers pose as officials from the Internal Revenue Service or other tax bodies. As usual, the end goal is to trick victims into giving them personal information or money. 

These scams usually involve an email or phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, asking for personal information such as your Social Security or credit card numbers. Sometimes, they will also ask for money, saying the victim owes taxes. They may threaten potential victims with arrest, deportation, or other penalties if they do not pay up.

Technical Support Calls

These typically begin with an unsolicited phone call or email from someone claiming to be from a technical support team. 

The scammer can claim an issue with the victim's computer or account. Then they will try to convince them to provide personal information or perform actions that will grant the scammer access to their system.

Winning an Award

This vishing scheme is particularly successful because it leverages people's trust in receiving recognition. 

Here, the scammer will contact the victim and claim they have won a prize or award. They will then ask for personal information or money to collect the award. Often, the victim gets a deadline to provide this, which adds a sense of urgency to the scam.

How to Recognize a Vishing Scam?

Imagine you receive a call from someone claiming to be from your bank. They say there has been suspicious activity on your account, and they need to verify your information. They ask for your account number, Social Security number, and date of birth. This is a scam. The caller is trying to steal your personal information so they can commit fraud.

There are a few ways you can go about vishing detection. Take note of what information the caller wants. A legitimate bank employee is not going to ask you for your personal data over the phone if you didn't initiate the call.

Second, watch out for red flags in the conversation. A few common ones include:

  • the caller may try to rush you or create a sense of urgency
  • they may also threaten to close your account or take other action if you don't cooperate

You should also check the caller ID. Scammers can spoof their phone numbers so that it looks like they're calling from a legitimate organization. But there are telltale signs that the caller ID is fake. You can use a reverse phone lookup service to see in whose name it is registered. 

How to Prevent a Vishing Attack?

Vigilance is the best defense against scams like vishing.

Never give out vital personal or financial information over the phone, even if the caller seems legitimate. If you are unsure whether a call is genuine, hang up and call the company back using a number you know to be legitimate.

You should also be aware of some common red flags that may indicate a vishing scam, such as: 

  • high-pressure tactics
  • unexpected requests for personal information
  • unsolicited offers

If you are ever in doubt, err on the side of caution and do not give out any information.

Don't hesitate to contact the supposed sender or caller to verify their identity. A legitimate person or organization will have no problem giving you their contact information so that you can verify their identity.

How to Report Vishing Scams?

If you receive any vishing phone calls in the United States, you can report them to the FTC.

To make a report, you'll need to provide as much information as possible about the call, including:

  • the phone number
  • the time
  • and any other details you remember

You can record the call, even if you use an iPhone.

You can also file a complaint if you believe you've been a victim of vishing. Once done, the commission will investigate and take appropriate action if necessary. 

Additionally, you can report vishing calls to your local law enforcement agency. Taking these steps can help protect yourself and others from becoming victims of this scam.

Wrap Up

The rate of cybercrime is constantly rising, and it’s all you can do to keep your information private. In this article, you learned what vishing is and how this form of phishing is becoming increasingly prevalent. 

It can be tough to detect, so you must be careful. A good place to start is to watch out for the red flags we shared above and take action immediately if you notice them.

FAQ.


Is it illegal to pretend to be someone else over the phone?

In most cases, it isn’t illegal to pretend to be someone else over the phone. There are a few exceptions, however. For example, it's illegal to impersonate a law enforcement officer or other government officials. It's also illegal to use another person’s identity in order to defraud someone or commit a crime.

 

What is vishing in cyber security?

Vishing is a type of cybercrime where scammers use phone calls or voicemails to trick you into giving them your personal information.

How do I act to stop phone spoofing attacks?

First, be suspicious of any calls that come from unfamiliar numbers and ask for personal or financial information. Do not provide any and hang up immediately. Also, report the call to your phone service provider so that they can take action to block the number. Finally, consider using a call blocker app that will help to screen calls and protect your privacy.

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Daniel Attoe

Daniel Attoe

Daniel is an Economics grad who fell in love with tech. His love for books and reading pushed him into picking up the pen - and keyboard. Also a data analyst, he's taking that leap into data science and machine learning. When not writing or studying, chances are that you'll catch him watching football or face-deep in an epic fantasy novel.

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