It can seem like there's a never-ending supply of scam calls. It could be an automated voice telling you that your bank account has been hacked or someone telling you that your car has been involved in an accident.
In 2021, Ofcom reported that approximately 45 million people were targeted by scam phone calls and text messages. Ofcom's research also found that six in 10 over-75s received a suspicious phone call to their landline phones in the same year.
Scam calls are often easy to spot, but they can be dangerous if you fall for them. Scammers could gain access to your personal information or your bank details within a few minutes if you don't realise you're talking to a fraudster.
Continue reading to find out what the different types of scam calls are, how you can spot them, and ways to avoid falling victim to scammers.
Vishing is a type of cybercrime that is conducted over the phone. Scammers attempt to retrieve personal and financial information from their victims so that they can hack into their bank accounts or impersonate the victim in future scams. To do so, they may pretend to be a representative of a bank, the police, or other official organisations.
The scammer may tell their victim that their account has been compromised, and they must provide their password and personal details to resolve the issue. They will usually try to sound friendly but authoritative so that the victim trusts them.
Scammers can make hundreds of phone calls a day to unsuspecting individuals. They often use VoIP technology to access different phone numbers and names attached to them. Some cybercriminals are able to change the caller ID so that it appears the phone call is coming from a bank or other official organisation.
Vishing can be conducted in a number of ways. Cybercriminals may send out emails to potential victims with the aim of getting their phone numbers. They will pretend to be someone else in these phishing emails, such as an official organisation. Sometimes scammers will pretend to be a family member or friend in the hope that potential victims will share their phone numbers.
Through the email exchange, the scammer will then try to phone the victim on the number they provided or try to convince the victim to call them. Once the victim is on the phone, the scammer will create a story that excites or scares the victim. For example, the scammer may try to convince the victim that they have a great investment opportunity or that the victim is in trouble with the law. They will try to convince the victim to take action by sending over money or their personal details.
If the scammer is pretending to be from a bank account or similar organisation, they may try to get the victim to 'confirm' their personal details with the pretence of checking the information against their records. However, this is an attempt to retrieve your information. You should never give your credit card or bank details over the phone.
After the cybercriminal has the victim's personal or bank details, they can commit further crimes. They may try to drain the victim's bank account or use the personal information to impersonate the victim. They may also use the victim's personal information to try and scam more people (including colleagues and friends of the original victim).
Scammers will sometimes use phishing emails to obtain phone numbers. They may also directly contact people through numbers they found on a random generator or from a list of phone numbers that other scammers have contacted. You are likely to receive more vishing phone calls if you have interacted with a scammer in the past.
Social engineering is a fraud technique that cybercriminals use. Scammers will try to exploit a victim's trust by impersonating an official organisation or someone they know. They will try to manipulate a victim into disclosing their personal and bank details through manipulative techniques.
The scammer may try to convince the victim that their account has already been hacked in an attempt to get them to transfer money into the scammer's account to 'keep it safe'. Scammers might also try to find out the victim's bank details so that they can access the victim's account themselves.
Scammers often pretend that a victim's bank account or credit card has been compromised. They may request the victim's bank details (including username and password) as a way of 'confirming' who the victim is. Alternatively, the scammer may demand that the victim transfer money into a new account as a way of 'securing' it.
Another common vishing technique involves convincing the victim that they can make money from an investment opportunity. The scammers will try to convince the victim to make a deposit or purchase.
A vishing caller might tell the victim that they should log into their computer or mobile phone and click on a link or install software onto their device. However, this software will likely be malware or a virus. The scammer will be able to gain access to the victim's device and potentially the passwords and personal information that are saved there.
Whilst many scammers will directly call victims, some vishing fraudsters will leave an automated message on a victim's device. The message will likely request the victim to phone a number or visit a webpage. The message will pretend to be from an official organisation and demand that the victim urgently takes action.
Leaving automated messages can save scammers time. Rather than a real person making hundreds of calls a day, they will use a system that contacts numerous phone numbers and waits for someone to pick up or call them back.
Vishing is often used along with phishing (email scams) and smishing (text message scams). Scammers will email or text a victim and ask them to call a listed phone number or to send their phone number. Once the victim has called the number or given their own, the cybercriminal will proceed with the scam.
There are some common ways that you can spot a scam call. Scammers will usually try to scare or excite their victims. They will lead with a made-up situation that will spark a reaction from the victim. A common story is that the victim's bank account has been breached or their car has been involved in an accident. As well as scare tactics, vishing scammers also try to convince victims that they have won a large sum of money or that they're suitable for an investment scheme.
Vishing scammers typically use urgency to try to convince their victims to do something. They will exploit the victim's fear or excitement to convince them that they need to do what the scammer says. It could be that the scammer creates an imaginary deadline for an investment offer or says that a victim's account has been hacked and they must act now before their money is stolen.
Fraudsters are also prone to using threatening language. They may intimidate victims into doing what they say by suggesting they will be fined or taken to court if they don't. It's also common for scammers to be evasive when they are questioned. The scammer might try to shame the victim for asking too many questions.
Phishing is a type of cybercrime that uses social engineering. It is typically conducted through emails and text messages. Vishing, on the other hand, is scams made via phone calls. The goal of phishing is usually to try and hack a device or gain personal data. Scammers tend to use vishing to obtain personal information.
When scammers send phishing messages, they usually include a link that they encourage the recipient to click on. The link may download malware onto the user's device, which can be used by the scammer to find out the victim's passwords and other personal details.
Vishing is a technique that scammers use to find out personal information directly from the victim. Rather than finding the information by hacking into the victim's device, they will use persuasive techniques to convince the victim to give the scammer information verbally.
In recent years, phishing has become more common than vishing. Phishing often has more accuracy than vishing because most people are more likely to click on a seemingly innocent link than tell a stranger their personal details.
The best way to avoid falling for vishing scams is to verify the caller's identity at the first opportunity. If you are suspicious about their identity, tell the caller that you will phone the company back. You should then use the phone number provided on the official company website. Don't accept the phone number that the caller provides, as this may be another scam number.
You shouldn't provide any sensitive information on the phone unless you have phoned the company yourself. The caller ID may list a familiar company name, but scammers can use VoIP technology to mimic the caller ID of a legitimate company or organisation.
Some vishing scams will encourage you to press buttons on your phone as a way of answering questions or to be taken to different departments. Unless you know for definite that the caller isn't part of a scam (ie, if you've phoned the company yourself), you should avoid pressing response buttons. Fraudsters can use this technique as a way of recording your voice, which could be used in future scams.
Ultimately, the best way to avoid vishing scams is to hang up the phone if you are suspicious that the call could be part of a scam. You can try to Google the phone number, as it may have been highlighted by other people as a scam number.
It's also a good idea to avoid answering the phone unless you recognise the number. By answering the phone, your number will be listed as an active number and could be added to a scammer database. If you don't answer the phone, your number may be listed as inactive, and you are less likely to get more scam calls.
The best way to block individual phone numbers is to go into your phone's call history, select the problem number and tap the option for blocking or reporting the number. Unfortunately, many scammers call from multiple different phone numbers, so you may end up blocking quite a few numbers.
You can add your number to the Telephone Preference Service, which is the UK's only Do Not Call registry. It aims to stop marketing calls from being made to your number. This, in turn, can reduce the number of scam calls your phone receives. How can I report a vishing scam?
Vishing is a form of cybercrime that is based on phone calls. Scammers will try to get victims to part with their personal information (including bank details). They will often try to convince their victims that their money is in danger and that they need to transfer it to another bank account. Victims may also be told that they owe money or that they are being offered a good investment deal.