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Vishing — a growing threat

Voice phishing — aka vishing — is on the rise. Learn how to recognize these scams and protect yourself from fraud.

5 min read

These days, phishing scams are more prevalent than ever. In particular, voice phishing—aka vishing—is an increasingly popular type of scam you should look out for. In a vishing scam, a scammer will call you on the phone or via voice message in the hopes of obtaining personal information which can then be used to access your money or other benefits. But don’t worry—we’ve laid out all the important information you need to spot vishing scams and protect yourself and your loved ones. Read on to learn more.

What is vishing?

The meaning of ‘vishing’ comes from a combination of two words: ‘voice’ and  ‘phishing’. A vishing attack is a type of phishing scam conducted via phone call or voicemail. It falls into the category of ‘cybercrime’ because it’s a technique used by fraudsters to gain access to victims’ money or other personal information. They might try to access a person’s bank account, steal credit card numbers, or even trick them into transferring the money themselves.

How does vishing work?

There’s a reason that vishing has become so popular among scammers. It uses something called social engineering—a technique that relies on natural human instincts like trust, fear, greed, or the desire to help others. A cybercriminal will try to evoke these feelings in you, creating panic or other emotions that can cloud your judgment, and ask you to hand over money or other information to them. They might scare you by saying your money is at risk, inspire you with the promise of a great investment scheme, or beg you to help someone in need. In the moment, vishing social engineering triggers your desire to act quickly rather than think through the situation logically and calmly.

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Common vishing scams

Cybercriminals are often likely to pose as someone you’d generally trust, like your bank, a tax collector, an investment advisor, or a representative from your insurance company. This means you’re more likely to trust them with your money or financial details. They can tailor their calls to the area you live in, the time of year, your age, and other personal details. Here are some of the more common ways they might approach you:

  • Compromised bank account—In this type of vishing attack, phishers may call and tell you that your bank account has been compromised and is at risk of a cyberattack. The caller might then try to persuade you to transfer the money in your bank account to a ‘safer’ account, or ask for your login details to fix the problem. A trustworthy bank would never ask this of customers in a spontaneous phone call, so it’s safest to simply hang up. If you’re still concerned, contact your bank to make sure your account is in order.
  • A dream offer—Some scammers might call offering you a loan, prize, or tantalizing investment opportunity. These offers may sound highly enticing, so you might be tempted to believe them. But don’t be fooled—if a sweepstakes you never entered is calling and asking for your personal information, hang up the phone. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Tax scams—Some vishing criminals pose as tax collectors, threatening or frightening their targets with talk of outstanding tax debt and hefty fines. These calls can be especially unsettling, but don’t let your fear get the best of you. Even if you do have outstanding debts, always verify that your bills and invoices are coming from an authorized institution before you make any payments.
  • Medical or social security fraud—Cyber criminals sometimes pose as medical insurance or social security representatives in attempts to steal benefits or cash itself. Elderly people who are often targeted with these scams are more likely to be isolated and might not be aware of the prevalence of phishing. To help protect your loved ones from phishing fraud, chat with them about the most common types of scams and explain to them why they should never rush to share their bank details or other personal information with unknown callers.

Vishing prevention—how to protect yourself 

Vishing prevention is actually fairly simple to learn. We’ve written out the basic steps that you should implement to make sure you don’t become a victim of vishing attacks. 

  1. Never share or confirm your personal details over the phone, even if the person calling is claiming to be your bank. No legitimate caller will ask you to do this. If they do, take it as a warning sign that you might be experiencing vishing and hang up. Be sure to then report this call to your bank.
  2. Don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t know. Let the call go to voicemail and assess it from there. Or, if you think it might have been legitimate, call the number back from another phone. If it was a scam, this call likely won’t go through.
  3. See if the country where you live has a ‘Do Not Call’ register. Adding your number to the register means legitimate companies will know not to cold call you. Then, any cold calls you do receive are more likely to be vishing scams.
  4. Don’t respond to emails, texts, or social media messages asking for your phone number. This is often the first step cybercriminals take so that they can target you with a vishing call in the future.

How to spot a vishing scam

To spot a vishing attack, you’ll need to keep an eye out for some basic red flags. If you’re feeling rushed, manipulated, or panicked, this could be a sign the caller is actually a scammer.

The first step of vishing prevention is to hang up on any caller asking for your details. This might mean your address, bank account information, bank card numbers, or passwords. If you’re asked these questions out of the blue, just end the call. No reputable company would collect your information in this way. 

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We’re proud to bring our customers convenient, digital banking—without compromising on security. At N26, protecting your finances is our first priority. Experience peace of mind, thanks to security features such as biometric authentication, smartphone pairing, and 3D Secure technology. Receive instant push notifications for every transaction, so you know what’s happening on your account at all times. 

If you think you’ve been a victim of a vishing scam, don’t hesitate to speak to our N26 Customer Support team. They’re there to help you seven days a week via the in-app chat function or the N26 WebApp. If you want to know more about staying safe online, check out our online security guide. It’s full of handy tips to protect your finances against scams.

What is vishing?

Vishing is a combination of the words ‘voice’ and ‘phishing’. Essentially, it’s a phishing scam that’s carried out over the phone or through a voice message. Fraudsters do it to persuade people to share personal information like their address, passwords, or credit card details. They can then use this information to steal money or social benefits, commit credit card fraud, or even attempt identity theft.

Why is vishing dangerous?

Falling for a vishing scam can lead to credit or debit card fraud, loans being taken out in your name, or losing your benefits or savings. If a cybercriminal runs up debts in your name, it could also damage your credit score long-term. In some instances, it can be difficult to claim back any money you lose in a vishing scam. Vishing is especially dangerous in that it creates panic in its victims, manipulating them into giving away money and information.

What are the signs of a vishing attack?

The most important sign that you’re experiencing a vishing attack is if the person on the other end of the phone asks for your personal details, such as your address, bank account details, or passwords. No legitimate organization will ever ask you for these things over the phone. Often the scammer will pretend to be somebody in a position of authority or trust, like your bank manager, a tax collector, or an insurance advisor. If you feel panicked or pressured to share your details, that’s a clear sign it could be a vishing call—and you should hang up.

How can I prevent vishing?

Try to let any calls from an unknown number go to voicemail. That way, you can check your messages calmly, in your own time. Never share your details over the phone—remember, a legitimate organization wouldn’t ask you for this information, not even the police or your bank. If you suspect the person calling might be vishing, end the call and try calling the number from a different phone.

What do I do if I fall victim to a vishing attack?

If you share any of your personal information over the phone and suspect you may have fallen for a vishing scam, it’s important to take action quickly. If you can, freeze any of your cards and change the passwords to your accounts. You should also contact your bank as quickly as possible. They will advise you on any further steps you can take to minimize any adverse effects. We encourage N26 customers to contact our Customer Support team as quickly as possible. We always take any suspected fraud seriously and are here to help you.

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