• While cybercriminals’ methods in smishing, phishing, and vishing attacks may vary, their objectives remain consistent: seizing control of accounts, perpetrating fraud, or looting from unsuspecting individuals and enterprises.
  • Criminals have exploited programs like the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program to target business owners applying for loans.

Picture this: you’re going about your day, and suddenly, your phone rings. The caller sounds official, claiming to be from your bank, a government agency, or a reputable company. They insist there’s an urgent issue with your accounts and need to verify some personal details. Do you give them the details? Wait! This is what a vishing attack could be, emerging from the shadows.

A vishing attack is a fraudulent scheme where scammers, impersonating a company, reach out to potential victims over the phone to coax them into revealing personal information. The approach isn’t always an immediate call; fraudsters often use various baiting methods to spark curiosity or fear to gain the person’s trust on the other end.

“Vishing” is derived from “voice phishing,” meaning phishing attacks involving voice communication. It’s important to note that communication isn’t confined to phone calls alone. Often, such attacks may start with an SMS, for example. This can lead to confusion, as people sometimes mix up smishing with vishing. While their objectives are similar, there are variations in the techniques used for each.

This can only be cleared by understanding the intricacies of vishing attacks and how they operate in practice.

How Do Vishing Attacks Work?

Technologies currently available allow cybercriminals to launch widespread vishing campaigns. Scammers employ various vishing tactics to target their victims, and new methods emerge continually. Some of the most prevalent vishing attack techniques encompass:

  • Robocalls

Scammers employ automated technology to dial thousands of phone numbers daily, using pre-recorded messages or AI-powered bots for fraudulent purposes. Remarkably, three out of five Americans who fell victim to phone scams attribute their losses to robocalls.

  • Spoofed Caller ID

Scammers utilize VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) technology to manipulate their phone number on your caller ID, creating a false impression that the call originates from a different number.

  • Voicemail Drops

Scammers leverage technology to leave voicemail notifications before your phone even rings.

  • Text Message with a Callback Number

Vishing often initiates with a deceptive SMS text message containing a callback number.

Now that we understand the inner workings of vishing, it’s time to shed light on the various forms these attacks can take. Let’s explore the most common vishing attacks, dissecting their techniques and tactics to stay one step ahead of the perpetrators.

What Are The Most Common Vishing Attacks?

Vishing calls can originate from a live person or automated robocall systems, sometimes a blend of both. The caller’s knowledge about you can vary; they might possess minimal information or, in an attempt to gain your trust, may even share details like your address or the last four digits of your Social Security number.

The caller might impersonate a trusted colleague in a workplace setting, seeking credentials for systems like CashPro or Online Banking.

There’s a familiar pattern of soliciting more information during each vishing attempt. These vishing attack attempts can be categorized into several general types:

  • Solving a Problem with Your Account

A common vishing scenario involves a caller posing as a representative from your bank or a familiar organization. They claim an issue with your account, recent payments, suspicious transactions, or a potential refund.

To supposedly resolve identity theft problems, they’ll request sensitive information like changes to payment instructions, your access code, or your account number. Be cautious of such calls.

  • A Demand for Payment

Fraudsters often impersonate government agencies like the IRS or FBI or claim to represent collection agencies or third parties. They’ll insist you owe money and demand immediate payment, threatening fines or arrest. Some of these scams involve text messages to appear more legitimate. Remain cautious and verify such claims.

  • Technical Support

Be cautious when receiving unsolicited calls or voicemails that mention reputable companies. They may direct you to a customer support number to address a supposed issue with technical services or devices. They may even email you the steps, but it could also be a case of HTML smuggling. It’s crucial to remember that trustworthy organizations like Bank of America will never request your account details unless you initiate contact with them. Stay vigilant against such unsolicited requests.

  • Enrollment Scams

It’s essential to be aware of scammers who impersonate government program representatives, like the Social Security Administration or Medicare, and claim to assist with enrollment or payments while trying to obtain your personal or financial data.

Additionally, criminals have exploited programs such as the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program to target business owners applying for loans. Exercise caution and verify the legitimacy of such interactions to protect your information and finances.

  • Collecting an Award or Special Offer 

This vishing scam, often recycled, involves a call informing you about winning a contest or having the opportunity to claim a limited-time offer for goods or services. To claim these supposed rewards, scammers request personal or payment information. Be cautious and avoid sharing sensitive data in response to such unsolicited calls.

Even statistics have shown that these attacks are on the rise. In surveys conducted in 2022 among working professionals and IT experts, Statista found that nearly 70% of respondents had encountered vishing attacks. This marks a notable increase from the 54% reported in 2020.

To protect yourself and your organization from vishing attacks, take these precautionary steps to fortify your security defenses and minimize susceptibility to these deceptive tactics.

How to Prevent a Vishing Attack?

Discovering that you, too, could be a victim of a vishing attack attempt can be unsettling, but in most cases, the risks can be minimized if you avoid action. If you suspect you’re a target of phone scams, here’s how to safeguard yourself:

  • Avoid answering calls from unfamiliar numbers.
  • Refrain from returning calls to unknown numbers.
  • Do not engage with dubious calls or text messages, as responding confirms the legitimacy of your number to scammers.
  • Never share authentication codes, such as two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA).
  • Be cautious of caller ID information; scammers can manipulate it.
  • Do not click on links, call numbers, or reply to suspicious texts without verifying their authenticity.

When you doubt a call’s legitimacy, hang up and verify independently. For instance, if someone claims to be from your bank, disconnect the call and dial the official number on your bank’s website to confirm.

Understanding the distinctions between vishing, phishing, and smishing attacks is essential to ensure cyber hygiene. While sharing a common goal of exploiting human vulnerabilities, these malicious schemes employ different mediums and strategies.

Phishing, Smishing, and Vishing Attacks: What’s the Difference?

While cybercriminals’ methods in smishing, phishing, and vishing attacks may vary, their objectives remain consistent: seizing control of accounts, perpetrating fraud, or looting from unsuspecting individuals and enterprises. Here’s how the three methods differ:

Vishing scams involve a phone call from an individual manipulating a victim into verbally disclosing sensitive information.

Phishing attacks revolve around email scams that lure victims into clicking links that can lead to malware downloads or fake website visits (pharming).

Smishing, conversely, encompasses text message scams that similarly coax victims into clicking on malicious links or visiting deceptive, redirected websites.

From financial institutions to tech support scams, understanding these common vishing schemes will empower you to recognize the red flags and protect yourself and your organization from falling victim to these deceptive ploys.

To Conclude

Navigating the intricate landscape of vishing attack references is paramount in today’s digital realm, particularly for businesses. Vishing, a type of cyber fraud, has evolved into a pervasive threat that targets organizations. It employs voice calls to manipulate individuals into divulging sensitive business information, and perpetrators have grown increasingly cunning.

Understanding the mechanics behind these deceptive schemes reveals the common tactics used to exploit organizational vulnerabilities. Robocalls, spoofed caller IDs, voicemail drops, and deceptive text messages all play a role in these attacks. This knowledge is instrumental in fortifying your business’s defenses against vishing, ensuring the security of sensitive corporate data and information.

Delve deeper into the realm of security by exploring our assortment of security-related whitepapers.