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Written by: Laura Fitzgerald

Head of Brand and Digital Experience

Voice phishing, often referred to as vishing, is a deceptive technique that cybercriminals employ to trick individuals into giving personal and sensitive information over the phone. We will explore voice phishing, its definition, how it operates, common variations of voice phishing scams, and, most importantly, how you can identify and prevent these attempts to protect your personal information.

What is Voice Phishing / Vishing?

Voice phishing, or vishing, is a form of social engineering where scammers use phone calls to impersonate trusted entities, such as banks, government agencies, or even technical support teams. The ultimate goal is manipulating the call recipient into sharing sensitive information, like account credentials, Social Security numbers, or financial details. These attackers are skilled at creating a sense of urgency or fear, pressuring victims into acting hastily.

How Does a Voice Phishing Scam Work?

Voice phishing scams often begin with a well-crafted call that seems genuine. The scammer may present themselves as a bank representative, IRS agent, or even a tech support specialist. They’ll employ tactics such as Caller ID spoofing to make the call appear legitimate. Once they have your attention, they will create a sense of urgency. They might claim your account is compromised, your taxes are overdue, or your computer is infected with a virus. This urgency is designed to make you drop your guard.

The next step involves extracting information. Scammers may ask for personal details, like your Social Security number, birth date, or account passwords. They might even request a financial transaction to “secure” your account. Once the scammer has your personal information, they can use it to steal your money or identity. 

How Voice Phishing Scammers Might Use the Stolen Information

Voice phishing scammers can use the stolen information in various malicious ways. Here are some common scenarios:

  • Identity Theft: With access to your Social Security number and personal details, scammers can commit identity theft. They may open credit accounts in your name or engage in other criminal activities using your identity.
  • Financial Fraud: Scammers can use your financial information, such as credit card details, to make unauthorized purchases, withdraw funds from your accounts, or transfer money to themselves.
  • Account Takeover: If scammers obtain your login credentials for online banking, email, or other accounts, they can take control of these accounts. This can lead to further exploitation and privacy invasion.
  • Phishing: Scammers may use the stolen information to craft convincing phishing emails or text messages. By impersonating trusted organizations or contacts, they can trick you into revealing even more sensitive information or clicking on malicious links.
  • Blackmail: Scammers might threaten to reveal embarrassing or compromising information they have acquired, coercing you into paying them to keep it secret.
  • Romance Scams: If scammers have gathered personal details about your personal life, they may use this information to build trust in romance scams and manipulate you emotionally.
  • Social Engineering: The stolen information can be used for further voice phishing attempts. Scammers can contact you again, armed with more details, to make their calls even more convincing.

Common Types of Voice Phishing Scams

Voice phishing comes in various forms, each tailored to deceive victims in specific ways. Here are some common types of vishing:

  • Impersonation Scams: These scams involve fraudsters posing as trusted institutions, like banks or government agencies, to lure victims into disclosing personal information. They may claim your account has been compromised and request your account details to “secure” it. Always verify the caller’s identity independently before sharing any information.
  • Tech Support Scams: Scammers pretending to be technical support agents claim that your computer is infected or experiencing issues. They will request remote access to your system or demand payment for their “services.” Never grant remote access to unknown callers or make payments to resolve issues you weren’t aware of.
  • Bank Scams: Voice phishing scammers may claim to be from your bank and tell you that there is a problem with your account. They may then ask you for your account number, PIN, or Social Security number. For example, a scammer might tell you that your debit card has been compromised and that you need to provide your new PIN immediately.
  • Government Agency Scams: Vishing scammers may claim to be from a government agency, such as the IRS or the Social Security Administration. They may tell you that you owe money or that your identity has been stolen. For example, a scammer might tell you that you owe back taxes and that if you don’t pay immediately, they will take your wages.
  • Prize Scams: Scammers may tell you that you have won a prize, such as a vacation or a new car. They may then ask you to pay a fee or give them your personal information to claim your prize. For example, a scammer might tell you that you have won a free trip to Disney World but that you need to pay a shipping fee to receive your tickets.
  • Student Loan Scams: Vishing scammers may claim to be from a student loan company and offer to help you lower your payments or consolidate your loans. They may then ask you for your Social Security number, loan account number, or other personal information.
  • Utility Scams: Scammers may claim to be from your utility company and tell you that your service will be disconnected unless you pay immediately. They may then ask you for your credit card number or bank account information.
  • Job Offer Scams: Job offer scams prey on job seekers by promising lucrative employment opportunities. Scammers may pose as recruiters or employers, offering high-paying positions that seem too good to be true. To secure the job, they will request your personal information, such as your Social Security number or banking details.
  • Charity Scams: Charity scams exploit individuals’ generosity by pretending to represent reputable charitable organizations. Scammers often claim to raise funds for disaster relief, veterans, or various causes. They will ask for donations and request your credit card number or bank account information.
  • COVID-19 Scams: Scammers may claim to be from a government agency or healthcare organization and offer to provide you with information about COVID-19 or a vaccine. They may then ask for your personal information or financial information.

How to Spot and Avoid Voice Phishing Scams

Protecting yourself from vishing scams is crucial. Here are some key steps to identify and prevent falling victim to voice phishing:

  • Be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls from trusted organizations: Be cautious of any unsolicited phone call claiming to be from a trusted organization. Legitimate entities typically do not make unexpected calls to ask for your personal information.
  • Never give out personal information over the phone: If you are unsure about the legitimacy of a call, hang up and call the organization back at a known phone number.
  • Be wary of urgency and scare tactics: Legitimate organizations will not pressure you to make a decision immediately, and they will not threaten you with legal action or financial losses if you do not comply with their demands.

Other tips to help you spot and avoid voice phishing scams:

  • Pay attention to the caller’s accent and grammar: Vishing scammers are often from overseas, so their English may not be perfect.
  • Beware of calls from unfamiliar phone numbers: If you do not recognize the phone number, it is best to let it go to voicemail.
  • Do not call back phone numbers left on your voicemail: Scammers often leave voicemail messages that contain a callback number. If you call back this number, you may be connected to a scammer.
  • Be careful about clicking on links in text messages or emails: Especially if they claim to be from a trusted organization. These links can lead to phishing websites designed to steal your personal information.

Voice phishing scams are a serious threat, but with vigilance and proactive measures, you can shield yourself from their potential harm. Scammers use various guises to manipulate victims into revealing sensitive information, and the consequences of falling prey to their tactics can be devastating. By adhering to best practices, such as not sharing personal information over the phone and being cautious of unsolicited calls, you can prevent their attempts and safeguard your privacy and security.

Pindrop Helps Prevent Voice Phishing

In the ongoing battle against voice phishing, Pindrop is a formidable ally. Pindrop’s advanced technology employs voice biometrics and artificial intelligence to verify callers’ identities, ensuring that you speak with the genuine entity you intend to. By identifying the unique characteristics of each voice, Pindrop helps prevent voice phishing attempts. Pindrop’s proactive approach to security empowers individuals and organizations to guard against vishing scams effectively. By embracing modern technology and staying vigilant, we can collectively protect ourselves against this pervasive threat. 

Contact us to discover how Pindrop’s cutting-edge solutions can fortify your defense against voice phishing scams. Request a Pindrop demo to learn more about how Pindrop can help you or your organization prevent voice phishing scams and take a step toward safeguarding your sensitive information in an increasingly connected world.