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Beware of identity theft scam known as vishing

Updated December 23, 2009

The Cerritos Sheriff’s Station/Community Safety Center would like to warn Internet users of a new kind of identity theft scam called “vishing.” The scam involves thieves using easy to obtain VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephone numbers to trick Internet or telephone users into making a phone call and then sharing personal account information.

Akin to phishing scams, the new scheme feeds off of warnings to Internet users not to click on hyperlinks in unsolicited e-mail messages. Instead of including hyperlinks in e-mail messages, vishing scams include cheaply obtained VoIP numbers presented as credit card or financial services telephone numbers, in hopes that users will dial them.

In one vishing case, scammers targeted PayPal users by including a phone number in a spam e-mail. In another case, criminals configured an automatic telephone dialer to dial phone numbers. When a phone was answered, an automated recording was played stating that the user’s credit card had recorded fraudulent activity. The recording then asked the customer to call a number with a bogus caller ID to rectify the problem. When the user called, he or she was then asked to provide personal account information.

Part of what contributes to the success of these vishing scams is the ease of obtaining credit on-line or over the phone. Consumers have become comfortable with obtaining credit on-line or by dialing automated phone numbers.

Protect yourself from vishing by keeping the following in mind:

  • Credit card companies normally refer to customers by their full name. If an e-mail or phone call does not refer to your full name, it may be a scam.
  • Do not call a number provided in an e-mail or a phone message regarding possible security issues with any credit card or bank account. Call the number on the back of your credit card or bank statement instead to report or inquire about any security concerns.
  • If anyone claiming to be a credit card provider calls and requests your card number, hang up and call the phone number on the back of your credit card to report the attempt. If the call was legitimate, the credit card provider will have knowledge of the situation.
  • Caller ID may show the name of an individual or a company, but that is no guarantee the information is correct.

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