Dealing with phishing phone scams

What is phishing?

Phishing is a type of fraud in which cybercriminals attempt to steal sensitive information through email messages, websites or phone calls which appear to be legitimate. The victim is typically duped into believing that the message or call is from a trusted source. They may even be pretending to be someone you know. Their aim is typically to get you to share your passwords or other personal data, or to trick you into downloading computer viruses.

How to spot a phishing email

It’s important to be on the lookout for any suspicious signs of phishing in emails that you receive. Find out more about how to spot them here.

How to spot a phishing phone call

It may be trickier to spot a phishing phone call rather than a fraudulent email, as it’s more difficult to confirm the identity of the person who contacted you. However, here are a few things to take note of:

  • No-one should be asking for your password over the phone
    A reputable company will never ask for your password, either over the phone or by email. If they need you to reset your password, they’ll send you a link to a secure page on their official site, which will allow you to do it safely. You also shouldn’t have to give any individual person your password.
  • Threats of scary outcomes
    In order to try to spur the victim into action, scammers may include threats in their calls. For example, they could say that your bank account will be permanently deleted if you don’t reset your password through a link that they’ve provided.
  • You can try to call them back
    Call phishing has gotten more technologically sophisticated. Nowadays, scammers can hide their caller IDs, so you don’t necessarily know who’s calling. If you’ve received a call from a genuine source, they shouldn’t mind if you hang up and call back using their official contact channels. If they provide you with a number to ring, you should verify that it belongs to a trusted source before calling it.

What to do if you’re a victim of phishing

If you’ve been the victim of a phone-based phishing attack, there are some steps that you can take. These include:

  • Changing your passwords
    You should change any passwords that may have been compromised as soon as possible. This could lessen the chances of the scammers being able to use them to log into your accounts.
  • Contact your credit card company
    Contact your credit card company. Depending on the situation and their standard way of responding to phishing attacks, they may choose to freeze any cards at risk, or to cancel them and replace them with new ones. They’ll also be able to monitor your activity, in case the scammers use those at-risk cards.
  • Contacting credit reference agencies
    Contact your credit reference agency to notify them that your information may have been stolen. They can then take it into account if you need to dispute any credit activity that has been or will be caused by the fraudsters. Not contacting the credit agency could potentially impact your ability to obtain credit in the future.
  • Monitoring your bank accounts
    You can also keep an eye on the activity in your bank accounts to confirm that you recognise all of the withdrawals that are taking place. Any suspicious activity should be reported to your bank.
  • Reporting the crime
    You should report fraud and cybercrime to Action Fraud (the National Fraud & Cyber Crime Reporting Centre). If you are in immediate danger, dial 999 for emergency services instead.

It pays to be on the lookout for fraudulent activity when you’re contacted by any form of communication. No matter how careful you are, though, it’s possible that you’ll encounter cybercriminals that are able to steal your personal information. Always ensure that you follow up and try to minimise the risks by reporting any incidents and securing your personal data.

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