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What is vishing?

What is vishing?

Vishing is a common tactic that cyber criminals use to fraud individuals and businesses into giving up vital information, such as bank accounts or credit card information.

Both businesses and individuals lose millions of dollars a year to phishing scams, many of which include vishing attacks, often devastating the lives of those affected.

In order to stave off the potential losses that come from a vishing attack, businesses and society at large must work together to raise awareness of common vishing tactics while simultaneously reporting new forms of them as they rise.

In this article, we will discuss:

  • What vishing is
  • Types of vishing attacks
  • Ways to prevent vishing
  • Common aspects in most vishing attempts

What is vishing (voice phishing)?

Vishing is a type of phishing attack that uses fraudulent phone numbers and social engineering. It primarily involves voice messages or phone calls from unknown or unfamiliar phone numbers, often from malevolent individuals looking to steal important information from a particular target.

Their intention is to use that information in further phishing scams later on or to obtain access to important accounts.

In some cases, if they obtain incredibly vital information, such as a wealthy individual's account details or someone's social security number, they may sell that information to the highest bidder on the dark web.

Overall, vishing scammers are looking to use manipulation tactics over the phone to steal information for their own personal gain.

Thus, it is crucial to be skeptical of whoever you are speaking to over the phone and through emails and text messages.

What is a vishing attack?

A vishing attack is similar to phishing attacks, with some slight differences.

Phishing attacks are often performed over email, while vishing attacks use a fake phone number to leave an automated message in a victim's voicemail or speak directly with a potential victim.

Both vishing and phishing attackers rely on using social engineering tactics, such as posing as government agencies, tax departments, or financial institutions, and using threats and persuasive language to deceive victims into giving up their personal or financial information.

Their central goal is to obtain enough information to perform identity theft and gain access to a person's or company's accounts, allowing them to make a financial gain from their work.

Types of vishing attacks

In understanding vishing, it's essential to explore the different voice phishing techniques or types of vishing attacks that cybercriminals commonly use.

These attacks can be sophisticated and convincing, making it crucial for you to stay informed and vigilant. Here are a few types of voice phishing attacks to look out for:

  • Caller ID Spoofing: Cybercriminals will trick others into believing they're a trusted entity by altering the caller ID. In some cases, they even use VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol), allowing them to make calls over the Internet, making their numbers appear as though they are from a trusted entity.
  • Computer-Generated Voice Messages: This technique involves an automated call that delivers a pre-recorded voice message using a computer-generated voice. The message typically prompts victims to call back a specific number. The goal is to extract sensitive data when the victim calls the number back.
  • Voice Modification: Another technique is when scammers manipulate their voice over the phone to sound like a different gender, age, or accent to make their disguise more convincing. With the rise of AI-generated voice recordings, this can be an increasingly challenging issue in the future.

These are just a few types of vishing attacks that scammers will employ. In addition, remember that they utilize multiple angles of attack to reach their targets.

They may use smishing techniques, sending copious amounts of SMS text messages to get a victim to check the message and confirm their number is in use. They will then use that same number to perform a vishing attack.

How to prevent vishing attacks

In light of the growing threat of vishing attacks, it's essential for businesses to take proactive steps toward safeguarding their personal information. Vishing can be extensively prevented by employing a few of these simple strategies:

  • Take Security Awareness Training Courses - A crucial step is to find a reputable cybersecurity expert who provides digital security awareness training. They can provide a clear and essential foundation for a vishing scam and other ways cybercriminals attack.
  • Stay Informed - Remain up-to-date on all of the latest vishing scams and techniques, particularly businesses. This can easily be done with a newsletter or email chain sent around from a business's IT department.
  • Regularly Update Contact Information - Keeping contact details updated with a financial institution and other important organizations can help prevent vishing attacks. They can reach a potential victim promptly if they notice any suspicious activity.
  • Be Skeptical - Be cautious of any unsolicited calls asking for personal details. Always verify the caller's identity before providing sensitive information.

These are just a few basic steps toward preventing vishing attacks. Following them can be a strong step forward.

Due to the ever-changing nature of the digital world, it is important to always stay up-to-date on the latest developments in cybersecurity. If you recognize a vishing scam, you can report any information to the Social Security Administration.

Common elements of vishing phone calls

Like smishing and phishing attempts, many similar elements are common to most vishing attacks.

In all cases, the attacker will attempt to obtain sensitive information, such as a person's social security number, bank account details, or credit card numbers.

Here are some aspects that many vishing calls and voicemail messages may have:

Impersonating an authority

You'll often find that vishing attackers, as part of their deceptive tactics, impersonate authorities to gain your trust and extract sensitive information.

Here are some personas they may attempt to act as:

  • An agent of a government agency: The attacker may claim to be from the IRS, FBI, or local police department, often using scare tactics to pressure victims into revealing personal details.
  • A representative from a financial institution: An attacker might also pretend to be a bank or credit card company, insisting an urgent issue with their target's account needs immediate resolution.
  • A member of a company's technical support: They could pose as technical support from the IT helpdesk of a tech company that a person or business works closely with and depends on, stating they've detected a problem with a particular device.

In general, the attacker will pose as someone of trust and authority, present a problem they've merely conjured out of their imaginations, and then add pressure to that problem to trick users into giving up their personal information.

The above personas are just a few they may act as, so be careful and skeptical when speaking on the phone with someone with an unknown caller ID.

Requesting financial or personal information

As part of their crafty schemes, a vishing scammer will pose as authority figures and persistently ask for your personal or financial information over the phone.

They'll sound professional, even friendly, and will often have some information about you already. They'll manipulate this data, trying to trick you into revealing more.

These attackers, also known as "vishers," might ask for their target's bank account number, credit card details, or social security number. They might even request an email or physical address.

Remember, no legitimate company or authority will ever demand such sensitive details over a phone call.

It's crucial for both companies and individuals to stay vigilant, question who they are speaking to on the phone, and never provide personal or financial information to an unsolicited caller, no matter how convincing they may seem.

Creating a sense of urgency

Vishing scams often involve one of the most common social engineering techniques, in which the attacker creates a sense of urgency when speaking to their victim.

This high-pressure tactic is a common element of vishing attacks. They aim to trick you into taking immediate action, bypassing your usual caution. They may claim:

  • The victim's bank account is about to be closed due to suspicious activity.
  • The victim's Social Security number has been compromised.
  • They're from tech support, and their target's computer has infectious malware.

These claims are all designed to rush you into action.

Take a moment to breathe and consider the situation. Remember, legitimate businesses give you time to make decisions.

Don't let vishing scammers create artificial urgency that can cloud your better judgment and force you to reveal personal information.

Protect your most sensitive personal and financial data

Vishing scams and other attacks by cybercriminals will continue to occur, and for businesses that constantly store and exchange financial information, it is vital to defend against them.

Follow the tips and best practices above to reduce your risk of falling victim to voice phishing cyber attacks and keep your data secure.

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