Vishing scams on the rise: how to protect yourself

Vishing scams have quickly become another major security threat to people around the world. And although Interpol has taken tough action in the past few days, the danger is being targeted – and becoming a victim vishing scam has reached new heights.

Interpol announced last week that it had conducted raids on 76 countries over the past two months as part of its Operation First Light 2022. The effort, which spanned more than 1,700 locations and identified 3,000 suspects, aimed to target scammers engaged in a variety of social engineering and human trafficking activities, including money mule herding and sexual slavery. The raid focused on criminals who use social media and other technologies as their main method of finding and exploiting victims.

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In all, Interpol was able to freeze 4,000 bank accounts, intercept $50 million worth of illegal funds and arrest 2,000 people around the world.

Human trafficking and money laundering have long been a core issue for Interpol. And while law enforcement agencies have warned about vishing scams for years, Interpol acknowledged in a statement last week that it has become an increasingly worrying problem in the broader cybercrime realm.

What is vishing?

Vishing is short for voice phishing or voicemail phishing. In both cases, the criminal uses voice communication (or the promise of voice communication) to target individuals and force them to share sensitive information about themselves.

Vishing scams have become a particularly prominent problem for those who are less digitally inclined and more willing and willing to share information over the phone.

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How do I become a victim of vishing scams?

Vishing scams can come in many forms, but generally they involve two vectors, both aimed at tricking you into giving up your information.

The first method, voice phishing, aims to get you on the phone. In some cases, scammers pose as bank employees or employees of a government agency like the Internal Revenue Service. They can even say they are from a cybersecurity company. Depending on your angle, scammers are trying to trick you into believing that your personal information has been compromised, has been stolen, or that you simply owe money on something. They then send you a link to a deceptive website that is used to steal sensitive information and login credentials to bank accounts, email accounts, or other data they target.

Voicemail phishing scams are intended for those who use services like WhatsApp for their voice messages. They can also be used against corporate users who receive emails when voicemails are left on their work phones.

While scammers’ emails or messages look legitimate and appear to come from a genuine voicemail service, they are not. If you instead click the link in the email to listen to your voicemail, you will find a malicious page that aims to steal your information.

How can I protect myself from vishing scams?

Vishing scammers are effective at what they do, so it’s important not to underestimate them. But there are some steps you can take to protect yourself.

Never share personal information with anyone over the phone without verifying that they are actually from the organization they claim to be. Rather than speaking to the person calling you, instead call the organization themselves using their official numbers listed on their website.

Whenever you receive an email that claims to be a voicemail, take a moment to verify that it’s legit. Even if it looks like a real email, double-check the link you’re asking and make sure it’s from the expected domain. In some cases, vishing scammers use domains and links that are similar, but not identical, to the desired destination.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, if something just doesn’t feel right, don’t trust it. With all the scams we encounter every day, it’s easy to fall victim. But if something feels awkward or you just don’t think you should trust the person or link you just received, trust your instincts. It’s far better to be safe than fall victim to a vishing scam.

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