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What is a vishing or telephone scam?

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A scammer will call you up on your landline or mobile phone pretending to be from your bank, building society or a government agency and will fish for information from you, so they can steal your money or collect information so they can use your identity to commit fraud elsewhere.

Vishing is a type of phishing scam that happens on the phone. The word vishing is a combination of ‘voice’ and ‘phishing’.

To do this, they are looking for your personal details, such as your card, PIN, passwords or card reader codes.

They might not be very convincing and know nothing about you, or they could be incredibly sophisticated, and already have some information on you such as your name, address or phone number, but need a bit more. They can often seem very genuine.

When they call you, they are going to want to you tell them your details very quickly (criminals don’t want to spend ages committing a crime, no matter what it is). They may try and panic and frighten you into trusting them so you hand over your information without being able to think it through too much.

A scammer may tell you that they are your bank manager, and they are calling because right now someone is trying to empty out all your savings, and they are checking to make sure that’s you. You then will go into a panic because you’re not, and the scammer will reassure you that they can stop the payment, they just need to confirm you are who you are by giving them some details (such as your bank details, address etc), and you think you’ve done the sensible thing, but really there was no initial crime, but there will be one now.

What’s really nasty about vishing is that these criminals will often target the vulnerable, especially older people who have big pots of life savings. Make sure you tell your older family members and friends about the possibility of someone calling and scamming them, so they know to protect themselves.

According to the Financial Ombudsman (FO), many people over the age of 75 have been victims of phishing and have lost significant amounts of money - and in some cases, their life savings. And, because of the way the fraud is carried out, most won’t get their money back.

How to report a vishing or telephone scam

Vishing and telephone scams are particularly devastating because getting your money back is unlikely. That said, You should always report a scam, because at the very least, it may help stop others from being scammed in the same way and police will be able to launch an investigation to try and stop these criminals.

You can report a suspected vishing or telephone scam to Action Fraud (Opens in a new window) over the phone using the number 0300 123 2040, or online if you would prefer.

The 0300 number means that it costs the same as a call to a local landline phone number, even from a mobile phone, so it won’t cost the earth to report the vishing scam to Action Fraud.

The truth is that if you give your bank details to a scammer, you’re unlikely to get your money back. However you could consider contacting the Financial Ombudsman if you believe your bank’s response to the fraud has fallen short.

The ombudsman looked into the actions of banks when it came to vishing and found that most banks believe it is good practise to question or query large and unusual transactions made in-branch, particularly those made by older customers.

However in 4 in 10 cases, the ombudsman did find the bank’s response to the fraud had fallen short so the the customers were compensated.

It found banks typically act quickly when alerted by customers that they had been defrauded, but saw some cases where the ‘sending’ bank - the one given instructions to transfer money - had taken a long time to contact the ‘receiving’ bank to try and recover the customer’s stolen money, so upheld the complaint.

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How to avoid vishing and phone scams

As you can see, getting your money back once you’ve been vished isn’t easy - so your best line of defence is to avoid being scammed in the first place.

The key here is spotting when it’s a scammer on the phone rather than someone legitimate from your bank for example. The big tip-off is if they are rushing you and desperately trying to get you to reveal your information, which no legitimate caller would ask you to do.

If you’re unsure in the slightest, tell them that for security reasons you’re going to hang up the phone and call them back using the official phone number on the bank etcs website. If you’re talking to someone legitimate from a bank, they will be more than happy for you to do that.

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