In 2019, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received 467,361 complaints with reported losses exceeding $3.5 billion. A big part of that damage came from vishing, a blend of “voice” and “phishing” where individuals give up financial details or other personal information to a stranger over the phone. Vishers know that if they keep the scams up long enough, someone is bound to give up their personally identifiable information (PII).
Vishing techniques are evolving
In a vishing scam, the goal is to obtain information over the phone by impersonating someone the caller would normally trust. The strategy of playing on the emotion of the “mark” is consistent throughout all known techniques. Whether playing on the panic of losing money or the excitement of perhaps winning some, the key is to get the caller talking before thinking about privacy concerns.
Common “Emergency” Scams
- Bank Accounts: One of the more common methods is when the con artist creates a fake emergency tied to a bank or credit card in which time is of the essence. The only way to fix the “problem”? Share login details or other relevant account information.
- Tax Returns: This works very well for tax returns too in which the visher often uses a pre-recorded message telling you there is a problem with a return and legal actions are imminent.
- Get Rich Quick: In this case, the caller usually lets the victim believe they are missing out on the chance of a lifetime investment offer that will land them millions, or that they can finally be unsaddled of that pesky college loan debt. The tactics are cruel but surprisingly effective.
Vishing technology is getting smarter
If impersonating a financial or insurance representative seems too obvious, keep in mind that vishing calls often use voice over internet protocol (VoIP) to trick caller ID into thinking the call is coming from a trusted source.
What is more alarming is the use of “deepfake” audio AI technology to literally sound exactly like someone you know. As deepfake criminology improves in conning people out of money, consider the potential of these vishing scams to be perpetrated by the AI-generated voice of a sibling, spouse, or other loved ones. The potential is already here and makes it hard to stay completely convinced we aren’t all vulnerable.
Avoid becoming a target
- As a pre-emptive start, opt into the national “Do Not Call” registry to help block a majority of third-party attempts
- If a call is answered with an automated message or from someone unknown, do not follow any requested prompts or answer any questions. If possible, verify a call-back number through a trusted source such as the company’s website
- If unsure, just hang up the phone
Want more information like this delivered straight to your inbox? Click the “Follow” button on the bottom right, and enter your email address.
© 2020 The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to convey or constitute legal advice. HSB makes no warranties or representations as to the accuracy or completeness of the content herein. Under no circumstances shall HSB or any party involved in creating or delivering this article be liable to you for any loss or damage that results from the use of the information contained herein. Except as otherwise expressly permitted by HSB in writing, no portion of this article may be reproduced, copied, or distributed in any way. This article does not modify or invalidate any of the provisions, exclusions, terms, or conditions of the applicable policy and endorsements. For specific terms and conditions, please refer to the applicable endorsement form.