Beware of Voice Phishing—or “Vishing”—Calls

It is difficult to ignore a ringing telephone. While fraudulent emails and unwanted mail can be deleted or tossed in the trash, telephone calls are tougher to tune out. And because telephone calls are still considered a secure form of communication, voice phishing scams take advantage of consumers’ trust to steal money and personal information.

In voice phishing—or “vishing”—scams, callers impersonate legitimate companies to steal money and personal and financial information. And these scams are on the rise. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission reports that 77 percent of its fraud complaints involve contact with consumers by telephone.

Vishing calls are generally made via Voice over Internet Protocol (“VoIP”). Thousands or millions of VoIP calls can be made around the world in an instant. And because these calls are made over the Internet, they are nearly untraceable. Vishing scammers also use recordings and caller ID “spoofing” (falsifying caller ID information) to further avoid detection. Placing these calls is relatively inexpensive, so even a small fraction of responses can make the scam very lucrative.

Tips to Avoid Being a Victim of Vishing

  • When an unexpected caller (you did not initiate the communication) claims to represent a specific company, ask for his or her name or employee number and call the company back using an independent and trusted source, like your billing statement or the phone book. Do not call the number provided by the caller.
  • Avoid providing personal or financial information over the phone, especially if you did not initiate the call.
  • If someone claims you owe a debt, remember that both state and federal laws provide you certain rights when you are contacted by a debt collector, including the right to receive written verification of the debt.
  • Remember that in general, you cannot win a prize if you did not enter a contest.
  • If you are not sure about the legitimacy of a call, tell the caller you need time to think things over. Ask a friend or family member for their perspective, or conduct your own research by contacting the Amarillo Better Business Bureau at (806)379-6222 or
  • Don’t be afraid to hang up if something doesn’t seem right. If it sounds “too good to be true,” it probably is. Never give out your Social Security number or Medicare number to an unsolicited caller. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Social Security Administration will not call you to update your information or give you a new card. And remember that your Medicare number is the same as your Social Security number!

When in Doubt, Don't Give it Out

Scams and crooked deals are everywhere today, often where we least expect it. When you’re home answering the phone, browsing the Internet, checking the mail, or opening your door, scam artists and fraudulent operators look for ways to get your Social Security number and other private information. You can protect yourself in many situations by following one simple principle—if someone contacts you and claims to need your private information, think twice and remember: when in doubt, don’t give it out.

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