What’s worse than getting an unwanted phishing email in your inbox? An unwanted scammy call straight to your phone.

Vishing,” or voice phishing, is the practice of using the telephone system to gain access to personal, private, and financial information for the purpose of a financial award. Essentially, it’s like getting that phishing email read to you over the phone. It’s something to be wary of as we give and receive new devices over the holiday. Fake tech support scams are one of the most dangerous forms of vishing.

Scammers cold call hundreds of phone numbers claiming they are from tech support. They try to convince potential victims that

  1. They are from a legitimate tech support organization and
  2. That the victim has a problem with their device that can be fixed over the phone.

Usually, the scammer will spout off something about logs or system files as proof in the hope the victim will fall for the trick. The scammer wants to make the situation sound as complex and severe as possible, pressuring the victim to take action without thinking. The end game is to convince the victim to download malware or to hand over personal, banking, or credit card information.

This tactic is similar to those we’ve seen in the past: a “grandchild” calling a grandparent for bail money, a vague voicemail asking that you verify your information, and the “Can you hear me?” scam in which the scammer calls to record you saying “Yes,” so he or she can use that recording for further attempts to defraud you.

Each of these scams use the telephone in a social engineering scheme, posing a potential risk to whoever picks up on the other end.

The best ways to keep yourself safe?

  • Don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t know, don’t trust caller ID, and always go with your gut. If something doesn’t sound right, hang up and call the legitimate organization, company, or business yourself to verify the alleged problem.
  • If you think a phone call is fraudulent, hang up and report the call.
  • Secure new devices with passwords.
  • Use anti-virus and anti-malware software.

Be alert for tech support scam attempts. People in Delaware and across the nation have lost thousands of dollars to these vishing scams.