What do you do when your cell phone rings? If you automatically answer whether you recognize the caller or not, you aren't alone. But, chances are good that the person on the other end is a scammer looking to trick you into giving out personal information.

What Is Vishing?

Vishing (or voice phishing) involves scammers calling you on your phone and phishing (fishing) for information. It has become so widespread that experts are calling it an epidemic and predict vishing calls will make up almost half of all cell phone calls in the near future.

How Does Vishing Work?

It’s a new twist on an old trick, but now it’s coming to your cell phone. Vishers impersonate bank, credit card company or government officials, saying they represent a charity or calling you with too-good-to-be-true offers. They’ll pressure you to act right away to avoid punishment, because the need is urgent or so you don’t miss out.

To confuse you even further, some scammers spoof phone numbers from your area code and may have a number similar to your own. Some even fake Caller ID profiles so you think taking their call is safe. If you don’t answer, they may leave messages calculated to get you to call them back. Messages like “Your account has been compromised. Call us to reset your password.” have been very successful.

It’s all to catch you off guard and get you to share your personal information like bank or credit card information and details like your birthdate or Social Security Number. Their goal? They want to steal your identity, your money or both. That’s why knowing how to spot a scam and how to protect yourself and your personal information is so important. It’s time to change the way we treat an incoming cell call.

Signs It’s a Scam

Many vishing calls follow a similar pattern—getting you to agree to the caller’s “terms” on the spot. Callers don't want you to think too hard about what they’re asking, so they create a sense of urgency to try to convince you to act immediately. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and others have identified several common red flags:

  1. I’m calling from your bank. For your account security, I need you to give me the 6-digit passcode we just texted to you.
  2. We just want to verify our information (most often claiming to be your insurance company).
  3. There’s a lawsuit against you/warrant for your arrest for tax evasion.
  4. You just need to pay shipping and handling (or a small fee) to receive your prize.

If you get a call like this, the best defense is to hang up. Then, report the call to the FTC.

Don’t Be Fooled

If you receive a text from us with a 6-digit security passcode, we’ll never call you to ask you for it. If someone unexpectedly calls you to ask for a security code we sent, hang up and immediately report it to us at 1-888-842-6328. Do not give out the code!

Protect Yourself

Here are some easy steps that you can take to protect yourself:

  1. Don’t let yourself be pressured into giving information over the phone. Keep personal information private and never give it out during an unsolicited phone call.
  2. If you think a call might really be from your bank, insurance or credit card company, find their phone number on your statement or card and call that number.
  3. Educate yourself about common practices. For example, the IRS will never ask for payments over the phone and they generally try to reach out through the mail prior to calling. They also won’t ask for payment in cash, gift cards, or wire transfers, or ask for your debit/credit card information.
  4. Some phone providers and many smartphones have call blocking tools that will allow you to block calls from undesirable numbers. If you get a scam call, block the number.

At Navy Federal, we’re partners in security. If you’d like to learn more about how we protect you and easy steps you can take to protect yourself, visit our Security Center. And, if you ever suspect you’re a victim of fraud or identity theft, you can call us 24/7 at 1-888-842-6328.

This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.