Phone phishing scams, also known as voice phishing or "vishing" scams, are happening more and more as mobile phone data has become easier to access.
While most Internet users are familiar with the other common phishing scams that primarily come through email, many people (including those who aren't familiar with common scams) are getting caught off-guard by these seemingly authentic phone calls with sinister motives.
The best way to avoid getting caught up in phone call scams is to detect phishing calls as they come in and know the appropriate way to respond to protect yourself, your information, and your money.
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What is Vishing?
Vishing or Phishing phone scams involve fraudsters calling people and pretending to be from a legitimate organization, such as a bank or government agency. The caller then tries to trick the person into giving them personal information or money.
Prevalent phishing scams, including phone scams, have been around for years. Still, they are becoming more commonplace as people increasingly use their mobile phones for everything from banking to shopping.
What Happens During a Vishing Scam?
The caller will often say there is a problem with the person's account or an urgent need for them to take action.
They may also try to create a sense of urgency or fear by saying the person's social security number has been compromised or that their bank account will be frozen (or some other dire consequence) if they don't act immediately.
The caller may also try to sound friendly and helpful, pretending to be a customer service representative trying to resolve an issue.
In reality, they are trying to get you to give them personal information, such as a credit card number or bank account number. The scammer may also try to get you to transfer money to a different account.
If your mobile phone is constantly getting calls or messages from scammers, you might be better off getting rid of that phone and switching to a reliable landline that works without the internet, making it harder for them to track you down.
Recognizing Vishing Scams
Always stay prepared. Here are a few things you can do to try and recognize phishing phone calls as they happen:
1. They Claim Legitimacy
First, if you receive a call from someone claiming to be from a legitimate organization, such as your bank or the government, and they are asking for personal information, it's a red flag that it may be a scam.
2. They Demand You Call Them Back
Another red flag is if the caller asks you to hang up and call them back at a number they provide. If someone legitimately needs information from you, they should be able to give it right away over the phone or send it to you in an email (not ask you to call them).
Additionally, you should be able to hang up and call the company back at its official contact number listed online to continue the conversation. If they provide you with a different number, or if you call the legitimate company and they have no record of speaking with you recently, they're trying to scam you.
3. They Pressure You to Make Hasty Decisions
Another thing to watch out for is if the caller pressures you to make a decision quickly or acts pushy or aggressive. Legitimate organizations should never pressure you to give up your personal information.
4. They Dodge Your Questions
If the caller avoids your questions to prove where they are calling from or won't allow you to speak with a supervisor, you can take their evasion as another red flag.
Other Types of Phone Phishing
Phone phishing goes beyond just vishing. It also includes SMS and messenger phishing, as well as social phishing.
Scammers use text messages (SMS) to try and trick people into giving them personal information or money. The scammer sends a text message that looks like it's from a legitimate organization. They often use your name and ask you to respond urgently with your personal information.
2. Social Media Messenger
If the scammer sends a message on a social media platform, they may pretend to be someone you know to fool you into giving them information. They can also trick you by saying they need help to log in to their account and asking you to provide them with your password.
What To Do if You Suspect a Phone Phishing Scam
If you think you may be a victim of phishing or if you have already given out your personal information, here are some steps you can take:
1. Hang Up and Block Them
If they call you and you recognize it as a scammer, hang up immediately. Then, block the number from your phone. You can also block a number that texted you a suspicious message. But beware, scammers can easily change their numbers.
2. Change Your Info
Change any passwords that you may have given out. Then, monitor your accounts closely for any unauthorized activity. If you see something suspicious, report it to your bank or credit card.
3. Watch Out For Fraudulent Charges
Look out for fraudulent charges on your credit card or bank account. Also, monitor your credit score closely to ensure it doesn't drop significantly.
4. File a Complaint
If you have given out personal information and think you may have fallen victim to phone call identity theft, go online to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. They will help you take steps to recover your information and protect your identity.
You can also file a formal complaint through the FCC if you feel you've been a phone scam victim.
Staying Safe on the Phone
Getting offline and getting on the phone doesn't insulate you from scammers. Stay diligent and always look for signs that a caller might be trying to scam you. If you recognize any of the above signs, use the tips we've shared to protect yourself and your finances.