Avoiding Vishers This Holiday Season: 6 Key Ways


Phone Calls Are A Visher’s Avenue Of Attack

This holiday season, will you place phone calls to friends, family, and acquaintances? Are you expecting to hear from people who have been altogether out of touch during the pandemic? Are you anticipating calls from loan service providers? People and places are starting to reconnect. However, vishers are trying to connect with you too.

Vishers, sometimes known as voice-phishers, initiate fraudulent phone calls to deceive people into sharing sensitive personal data. Vishing isn’t new. It’s a variation of traditional phone scams in which solicitors describe themselves as representatives from well-known entities. While you might think that it would be effortless to recognize a scam artist, their disguises can be tough to unmask. To highlight just how challenging these scams can be to detect, it’s worth noting that in 2018 vishers managed to scam 26,379 victims and netted $48 million. Many of the people scammed were smart, ordinary folks just going about their lives.

Avoiding Vishing Schemes

It’s possible to avoid vishers. Here are six key ways to limit the number of vishing calls that you receive and reduce your likelihood of falling victim to a scam.

1. Don’t Trust Your Caller ID

Clever vishers have figured out how to reroute calls, spoof phone numbers, and use other tactics to make the phone number that they’re calling from appear legitimate. Experts are working on solutions in order to stop phone number spoofing, but until then, it’s worth staying on high alert. Last year, the UK finance body indicated that the number of calls involving impersonation and spoofing reached approximately 40,000, and that’s in the UK alone [1].

2. Examine The Information Available On Your Social Media Profiles

Roughly 75% of vishers have personal information about a target ahead of placing a malicious call [2]. In the digital age, vishers can pinch this information about you from LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter. For example, if you’re between the ages of 25 and 35, you probably have your birthday listed on your Facebook profile in a section that you last updated as a teenager. You might want to remove this information, which can be thrown back at you as part of an attempt to authenticate your identity.

3. Maintain Personal Emotional Awareness

Vishers often attempt to create a situation that causes a sense of fear, urgency, or exhilaration. Whether the visher is intimidating you or promising to serve as a savior, pushing a person into a highly emotional state can prove advantageous for them. An individual under duress is more likely to share personal details or to provide financial information than someone who is calm, cool, and collected. If you’re on the phone with a stranger, take note of whether or not that individual seems to be peddling a narrative that kicks the cap off of your cool.

4. Recognize Financial Fraudsters

Vishers may pretend to call from your bank or another trusted financial institution. In the event that you receive a suspicious call—especially if good news is given, but then tempered by a request for a small amount of money—end the call and use the phone number on the back of your bank card to call the institution in question. Do not respond to any unsolicited banking-related inquiries by phone, text, or email.

5. Avoid Gift Card And Wire Transfer Requests

Vishers might pretend to work with a charitable organization in need of gift cards for a certain group of people, or for the welfare of stray animals. Within the first six months of 2021, the US Federal Trade Commission received reports of more than 35,000 gift card scams. Alternatively, scammers might say that they’re from the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and demand a wire transfer. Fake IRS callers commonly use intimidating tactics. Avoid these scams by simply hanging up.

6. Register Your Number

In the UK, you can register your phone number to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) to avoid scam calls. In the US, you can register your phone number to the National Do Not Call List. These services are 100% free of charge, easy to register with, and can help reduce the number of vishing calls that you receive.

Remember, vishing only represents one form of phone-based fraud. SMS-based phishing, which is often known as “smishing,” can also lead to stolen personal data, emptied bank accounts, and other upsetting identity-theft-related consequences. A common assumption is that smartphones are more cyber secure than desktop or laptop computers. This is not necessarily the case. Although iOS is known for its highly-secured nature, any phone can see a vishing or smishing threat come through.

As you reconnect with your world, ensure that you’re not inadvertently connecting with criminals. The above best practices will help you, your colleagues, peers, students, and others keep their information safe during this holiday season. Cheers!

References:

[1] Don’t trust caller ID on phones, says Ofcom

[2] What you need to know about phishing


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