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5 Powerful Ways to Protect Your Business from Vishing

by Cybergal | Last Updated | August 12, 2022
CyberSecurity - SMB|CyberSecurity Insights

Vishing is a thriving cybercrime that’s threatening not just Americans but people all over the world. Attackers scam their targets through phone calls to trick them into giving private information they can use to cause harm. They can mix various attack tactics, including vishing, phishing, smishing and social engineering

Isn’t it scary that 46% of Americans are bombarded with spam calls everyday? Spam robocalls are growing because they are incredibly profitable.

Their objective is to steal your information in order to use a your credit card, deplete your bank account, engage in blackmail, and a whole host of other activities.

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A personal experience

One day last year, I received a call from an unknown phone number. As is my practice for unfamiliar numbers, I didn’t answer the call. A few hours later, I received a text message from a spoofed PayPal sender informing me that the credit card I use for my PayPal account has some issues. The sender offered to fix the problem if I provide my login details. I didn’t. 

Being a writer on technology, and more recently cyber security, I knew from the start that this was a scam. The scammer first used vishing, and when it failed, followed it up with smishing.

I was lucky to have some knowledge of this type of scam. But what about ordinary citizens who can be easily intimidated because they simply are unaware of the threats. Cybercrime is huge business. Vishing and its cousins, phishing and smishing, have proven to be very successful methods for extracting critical information and then stealing or scamming from their victims. 

So What is Vishing?

What vishing looks like

Vishing, also known as voice phishing, is a type of phishing that uses phone calls to obtain personal or financial information to steal identity, money, or both from victims.

Vishing, like phishing, depends on tricking their targets into thinking that it’s for their own good to respond to the call. A  caller usually impersonates a representative of the government, the tax authority, the police, or even the victim’s bank.

Cybercriminals use persuasive language and social engineering techniques like threats or urgency. Their intention is to convince victims that they have no choice but to give the requested information.

Most vishers speak convincingly to appear as though they are assisting the victim to avoid penalties or even criminal charges. Another typical strategy is to threaten the recipient by leaving voicemails that demand an immediate call-back or risk having their bank accounts closed, getting arrested, or worse.

Vishing is More Than Just Phone Calls

Vishing attacks involve more than just dialing numbers. Cybercriminals use a scheming plan to steal from victims. The process usually goes this way:

Vishers research their victims

The research process starts by sending random phishing emails, hoping that someone will reply and share their phone number.  Alternatively, the visher can use sophisticated software to call numerous individuals using a phone number with the same area code as the victims. 

Leave a number for those who don’t initially respond

Some phishing scams provide their victims with a phone number they can use if they have any queries or wish to follow up. For example, they may want to check out the processing of their taxes or the outcome of their COVID-19 virus test.

This strategy establishes confidence in their victims. It may even give the cyber criminal a clean slate.  If the victim calls the number, he or she will be directed to a person who will complete the vishing scam.

Use social engineering tactics

If the intended victim answers the phone, the cybercriminal will then offer to help. Then they employ social engineering techniques like urgency, fear, or an alluring offer that’s hard to refuse.

Social Engineering - Attack Lifecycle

To trick their victims into believing they will benefit, fraudsters may employ all or just one of these social engineering strategies. Cybercriminals might request a mailing address, credit card information, bank account information, or work-related documents.

Harvesting the fruits

After gathering all the needed information, the vishing fraudster goes to work. They start draining bank accounts, making unauthorized purchases with credit cards, or stealing identities to commit other crimes.

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Common Vishing Scam Examples

Vishing is gaining popularity among fraudsters because they don’t have to meet their victims in person to carry out their evil craft. Social engineering methods make it easy for them to convince victims to act on their requests. Here are common examples of vishing scams:

False alerts from financial institutions

The false alert may start with a text message, asking the target to call a number to resolve an issue. If the target responds, the fraudster decides that this person is a potential victim.

The fraudster calls the victim saying he or she is from the target’s bank or credit card company. The criminal informs the target that there is some issue with his or her account or credit card. If the vishing scammer gets access to the bank account or credit card, he immediately steals money or makes fraudulent purchases.

Social Engineering - Attack Scenario

Unsolicited investment or loan offers

The opportunity to invest in a project or get a loan can get potential victims off guard. Vishers will go to work convincing their target to share personal and financial information.  If the offer seems legitimate, the victim may be convinced to give up the information.

Social Security or health benefits scam

In some instances, con artists attempt to persuade their victims to provide their health plan details to take advantage of services. It’s also typical for scammers to pose as Social Security Administration officials to inform their victims that their SS numbers have been suspended. They are here to help reactivate their numbers.

This is the sad part. Attackers often target the elderly or sick people. They use  the victim’s illness as leverage to persuade the target to provide their personal information. This could be a promise to sign them up for a refund or receive a check, but only if they provide private information.

Billing for a repair that didn’t happen

An alleged technical support service provider sends a link that opens a page informing you that a problem has been detected with your computer. The message requests you to call a number to receive technical support. If you respond to the call, the scammer will ask for your login credentials to proceed with the repair. In reality, there has never been anything wrong with your computer. 

IRS tax scam

Impersonating an accountant, the vishing fraudster calls a taxpayer about an alleged tax deficiency. The caller offers a solution if the target is willing to reveal personal and tax data.

Vishing vs. Phishing

Vishing is a type of phishing. Vishing and phishing are both cyber attack methods that aim to steal identity or money from their victims. However, they differ in some ways, such as the following:


Phishing attacks are more common than vishing scams. In fact, 74% of American organizations encountered successful phishing attacks. Google has also registered more than two million phishing sites as of January 2021.

On the other hand, about 54% of American organizations experienced vishing attacks in 2020. 

Method of delivery

Phishing attacks are aimed at a wide range of people through emails, text messaging, or malicious websites. The attacks are often automated.

Vishing attacks are directed at a lesser number of people through phone or voice calls. They are usually manual attacks.


Phishers typically have a vast knowledge about how to get into devices and networks. They use automation to target many individuals so they can catch more victims.

Vishing criminals typically do not have this knowledge. Their attacks are less accurate because one criminal can only take on one target at a time.

Information is obtained

Phishing attacks usually require the victim to click on a malicious link or download an infected file. 

In vishing attacks, victims personally give up their information to the criminal over the phone.

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Types of Vishing Techniques

Cyber criminals use various techniques to carry out their vishing attacks. Here are the common ones:


Wardialing typically targets a specific area code and uses the name of a nearby business to hunt for potential victims. This strategy involves making hundreds or thousands of automated calls to numerous numbers.

As soon as the call is answered, an automated message starts. The caller will identify as a representative of a bank, credit card company, or government agency. The will then prompt the individual to enter his or her name, credit card information, bank account information, mailing addresses, and social security number. 

Caller ID spoofing

Many hackers mask their identity behind bogus phone numbers or caller IDs. They might identify their name as unknown or fake a legitimate-sounding caller ID associated with the police or tax agency.  


VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. It allows users to send and receive phone calls via the internet instead of traditional landlines. 

Like caller ID spoofing, VoIP helps cyber vishers hide their identity. The criminals can even create numbers like they are from a government office, local hospital, or the nearest police station.

Dumpster diving

Digging into dumpsters behind buildings like banks, offices, or schools is a common way to gather phone numbers. Criminals can gather enough information to launch a spear vishing attack on a targeted victim.

5 Ways to Protect Your Business From Vishing

Vishing isn’t only aimed at individual consumers. Vishing enthusiasts found that there’s more information and money in businesses. Vishers are a shrewd breed but there are ways to prevent vishing attacks to protect your business. Consider the following:

1. Provide vishing security awareness training to your employees

Your employees are on the front-lines, and they need your support. Security awareness training that offers relevant and up-to-date training in vishing is a fundamental pillar in protecting your business against all kinds of phishing scams.

Include surprise vishing simulations in your training program. This will allow your employees to experience first hand how to spot the signs and how to prevent attacks. 

After your vishing exercises, it’s a good idea to evaluate the results and prepare a report with suggestions for the following steps. For specific jobs or users, this will typically be included in the next training.

The more relevant their training is to their daily tasks, the more they’ll remember and the more engaged they’ll be.

2. Enforce a zero-trust culture

Zero-trust limits access to information, authority, and privileges to those who need them in their work. The rest are off-limits. For example, if you store bank account information in a secure wallet but allow everybody to have access to it, it only takes one human error to compromise all.

3. Be wary of unfamiliar phone numbers

Never trust phone numbers that are used in calls or included in emails. Cross-check the phone number listed on the business website.

It’s not unethical to hang up on a stranger. But if you do answer, never give sensitive  personal information or confidential corporate data.  

To verify the validity of links included in emails, hover your cursor over it. You can see here where the link will lead. Entering the right URL into the address box is an even safer way to access the website.

4. Install a caller ID app

Using a good caller ID software can improve your phone’s spam call detection and blocking capabilities. This is supported by both Android and iOS phones. 

The caller ID app can block spam numbers, while allowing good numbers to go through. If a number does end up being a vishing scam, you can add it to the database of spam numbers.

Just a word of caution. You may still receive phishing calls from spoofed numbers that appear to be valid. Avoid these numbers and those not in your phone book and send them directly to voicemail for further analysis.

5. Watch out for strange requests from random callers

Any demand for sensitive information or actions that you don’t normally do could be signs of a vishing attack. These could be keying in your credentials, clicking a link, disabling security control, and so on. Report these types of requests to your security team right away.

Our Final Thoughts

The vishing threat isn’t expected to go away anytime soon. You have all the more reason to protect yourself and your business from it. A good defense is to understand how vishing works and know the warning signs. The final line of defense is strong antivirus software to keep your valuable information away from harm’s way.

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