Vishing: How to identify it and what to do about it

by Marlene Eisner

Have you or someone you know ever been a victim of vishing? The term, which blends the word ‘voice’ with ‘phishing,’ refers to a telephone scam to trick people into revealing critical financial or personal information that can be used for identity theft. Read on to find out what you can do to avoid this happening to you, and what to do if you are a victim of vishing.

Vishing: How to identify it and what to do about it

Vishing: what does that even mean?

We’ve all heard of phishing: those emails that pop up in your inbox, usually from a financial institution, urging you to click on a link and enter some personal information to fix your account. In reality, the link leads to a convincing, but fake, website, and your personal information is used to access your accounts or for identity fraud. The goal of vishing is similar, but the scam takes place over the phone using voice technology and reaches people through:

  • Voice email
  • Voice over IP (VolP)
  • Landlines
  • Cell phones

How it works

A potential victim receives a phone call from a computer-generated voice. The message of the call is that there has been suspicious activity in a credit card account, bank account, mortgage account or other financial service in the victim’s name.

The victim is then told to call a specific toll-free telephone number and provide personal information, like a bank account number, to “verify your identity” or to “ensure that fraud does not occur.” Sometimes the victim is asked to transfer money into a new, ‘safe’ account.

If the attack is carried out by telephone, do not rely on caller ID: the person doing the vishing can use a caller ID spoofing software that will show a legitimate source on the victim’s phone. (Spoofing is a practice that allows a caller to hide their identity. It shows a caller ID other than their actual number on the receiving phone’s caller ID display. This is often done by callers with malicious intent.)

What to do if you suspect vishing?

To avoid becoming a victim of vishing, always be suspicious of any unsolicited telephone message that sounds like you may be a target of illegal activity. Then follow these steps:

  • Don’t give out any personal information until you have verified whether the company is legitimate.
  • Instead of calling the number given in the unsolicited message, call the financial institution or company in question using a phone number you have looked up yourself, to verify all recent activity and to ensure that the account information has not been tampered with.
  • Contact the Better Business Bureau in your province or territory and ask questions about the company.

What if vishing happens to you?

If you are a victim of vishing and have provided personal information, write down what has happened and when the fraud began. Follow the steps below, taking notes on the people you spoke with and exactly what they said.

  1. Contact your local police and file a police report.
  2. Contact all companies with accounts you feel may have been compromised.
  3. Contact the two credit bureaus in Canada, Equifax and TransUnion. Ask that a “Fraud Alert” be placed in your credit file. At the same time, order copies of your credit report and review them. Make sure all the accounts and debts that show up on your report are yours. Report any incorrect information to the credit bureaus.
  4. Report the incident to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) toll free at 1-888-495-8501 to report the fraud and get advice.

No one wants to be scammed and by arming yourself with some basic information – and protecting your personal information – you can avoid becoming a victim of vishing. We encourage you to share this article with the people you care about to help protect them against vishing and other scams.

Additional information:

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