When your phone rings and you see a number you’re not familiar with, you can’t tell who’s on the other side unless you answer. But, doing so might be opening the door to a scammer and putting yourself in danger of falling for a vishing scam.
Unfortunately, most people aren’t familiar with how vishing works and exactly how dangerous it can be. If you want to discover everything about vishing and its similarities and differences with other fraud forms like smishing, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s what you should know.
What is Vishing?
Vishing is a common form of cybercrime that uses the phone as the main tool for scamming unsuspecting victims. It’s a shortening of the term voice phishing, an attack in which the cybercriminal convinces the target to give up certain confidential information they can later exploit.
Vishing is a type of wireless network attack. In this sense, vishing is very similar to smishing and the even more popular form of cyberattack, phishing.
The essence of the fraud is based on tricking the target into believing that the person they are communicating with is representing a trustworthy source. For example, the scammer might pretend that they represent a bank, medical institution, or even a government organization.
While this might sound overly simplified and hard to fall for, vishing attacks are worryingly successful. Cybercriminals use persuasive language and often forcefully guide the conversation in a specific direction. For instance, they urge the victims to act right away or give some information promptly, as refusing to do so might lead to a bank fine, legal trouble, or worse.
Vishing vs. Smishing
Apart from understanding what vishing is, it’s important to know the differences between it and other similar types of common scams out there. So, let’s start with the oldest term and one that started it all — phishing.
Back in the early 1990s, while the Internet was still a fairly novel thing, phishing was a booming business for fraudsters, as online users weren’t aware of the potential threats the Internet could bring at that time.
Phishing is the original online social engineering scam. It aims to trick the target into giving valuable information. This is the basis of how phishing attacks work. With this sounding pretty similar to what we’ve already discussed about vishing, what is the difference between vishing and phishing?
The main vishing and phishing difference is that the latter is the precursor of the former. It serves as the foundation from which all similar scams branch out. So, while a vishing scam is a specific type of fraud done over the phone, a phishing scam can happen through many various channels.
To expand on it, what is vishing and smishing? When it comes to these two specific phishing forms, the vishing vs. smishing comparison is even more nuanced.
A vishing call includes direct voice contact during the communication process. On the other hand, in smishing, the fraudsters interact with the target only through SMS messages. They try to convince the target to send the details via SMS or click on a malicious link they sent them.
Examples of Vishing Attacks
So, understanding what whishing is, we should also look at the common vishing scams. Knowing these will help you protect against these threats and avoid problems vishing calls can cause. Here are a few common examples of vishing attacks:
🡺 A Bank Alert
The most common type of vishing scam is one in which the scammers act as employees of a bank or a government institution. They will reach out to you saying there’s some problem with your account, an issue with your tax return, or any other similar financial predicament.
More advanced vishing scams might also involve sending an SMS asking you to call the scammer. This increases the chance of the scam working, as those willing to call are already hooked, thinking they are going to a legitimate representative.
🡺 Medical Institution Request
Another popular form of vishing is when scammers contact the victim by presenting themselves as government representatives or employees of a medical institution. This is a particularly common form of vishing in the US due to the Social Security number system.
If the target falls for this attempt, scammers can use their SSN to use benefits or even directly steal the victim’s money. Older adults and those on Medicare benefits are the most common targets of such scams.
🡺 Financial Opportunity or Investment Offer
Scammers sometimes also try to sway people to fall for a vishing scam by presenting them with some financial opportunity. For example, they might act like expert financial advisors that can help you make investments with very tempting returns. They might also offer you a way of paying off your debts more efficiently.
Whatever their proposal might be, all of these offers will share a certain element of urgency. They will be available for a limited time only, and you need to act right away and give the caller personal or banking information to claim the offer.
Spotting a Vishing Scam
When you know how to identify a vishing scam, you needn’t worry about falling for such an attack as long as you look for the telltale signs. Here are a handful of tips that will help you spot a vishing scam instantly:
- There’s a Sense of Urgency — One of the biggest hallmarks of all vishing scams is the fabricated sense of urgency. The scammers try to put you in a state of panic so that you’re more likely to share the information they request.
- Inquiring Sensitive Information — Another big red flag that the call might be a vishing scam is that the caller asks you to share your bank account information, social security number, or other identifiable data they can potentially exploit. Sometimes, they might even have some general information on you to seem more legitimate.
- Call Comes Out of the Blue — If you’re receiving a call out of the blue, especially from what seems to be a government organization, it’s likely a vishing scam. Government agencies won’t call you over the phone and ask for you to share private information.
- The Caller is Inflexible — If the caller refuses to let you end the conversation or let you contact the organization through a different channel, they are trying to scam you and don’t want you to double-check information before proceeding further.
How to Deal with Vishing?
With everything we’ve discussed so far, you now know much more about vishing than the average person. All that’s left is to move to the practical part — how to deal with vishing. Here are useful tips on how to protect yourself from vishing attacks:
Rule №1. Always be Aware and Vigilant
A good way to avoid a vishing scam is to be skeptical of any caller. If the caller is trying to steer the conversation in a specific direction and avoids answering your legitimate questions, avoid cooperating. Ask for the organization’s main number to verify that the call you received was from an official representative.
Rule №2. Don’t Act On Urgency
As we’ve mentioned above, scammers will most likely try to get you to act immediately. They will try to get some valuable information or financial details during the call. Don’t fall for threats and act on any incentive without thinking it through. Never give any information unless you’ve previously verified that the call comes from a trusted source.
Rule №3. Don’t Answer Unknown Number Calls
Lastly, a simple rule of thumb that’s 100% effective in protecting you against vishing attacks is just to avoid answering calls coming from numbers that you don’t recognize. Let the call go to voicemail. If it’s someone you recognize or an institution whose call you can easily verify, call them back. Otherwise, just ignore it.
Ensuring Protection Against Phishing With Passwordless Authentication
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