What is vishing in banking? How can you protect yourself?

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Vishing, or ‘voice phishing’ is when a fraudster tries to impersonate a police officer or someone who works for a bank. The idea is they persuade you to transfer your money to a so-called ‘safe’ account. But really, they’re stealing your money.

Q. Who makes vishing calls?

A. A vishing scammer will often pretend to be a staff member from your bank or a police officer or sometimes someone from a company (such as a supplier).

Q. What do they say?

A. The lines used by the scammers vary, but typically they’ll tell you either that a regular payment you make needs to be made to a different account or that your bank account has been targeted by fraudsters working for the bank and that you need to transfer money from your savings account to a ‘safe’ account.

A fraudster was jailed this week (22nd September 2016) for his part in a £113 million vishing scam. He recruited corrupt banking staff who took screenshots of customers’ bank accounts and passed on their banking details. This helped convince victims that the fraudsters were genuine. Police believe that 750 businesses were targeted. One victim was so distraught that she committed suicide.

Q. How do they get hold of the money?

A. The fraudsters may persuade you to make an online bank transfer or to go into your local branch and do a transfer there.

SAVVY TIP: If you’re encouraged to take money out of your account in your branch, you’re normally told not to tell the branch staff what you’re doing or why. This is supposedly because branch staff may be in on the scam. In reality it’s so that you don’t alert branch staff to what you’re about to do.

In some cases, the fraudsters may set up a screen sharing service so they’re able to take over your computer (with your permission) and do the transfer themselves or find out more about your accounts. Once the money has been transferred into a ‘safe’ account, it’s very quickly taken out or moved elsewhere.

Q. If I think I’ve been a victim of vishing, what should I do?

A. First of all, call your bank. Do this from a different phone to the one you were called on by the scammers or wait five minutes before dialling out.

SAVVY TIP: If you don’t wait for a few minutes, the scammers could still be on the line, in which case you’ll only end up relaying your fears to them.

If you’re quick, you may be able to stop the bank transferring your money to the fraudster’s account or the fraudster emptying the account you’ve transferred it to.

Q. If I’ve been a victim of vishing, can I get my money back?

A. You may be able get a refund from your bank, but it’s not guaranteed. In very rough terms, if you authorised the transfer (i.e. you asked the bank to transfer the money to the fraudster’s account), you may not get your money back.

There are situations where the Financial Ombudsman Service has made the bank in question refund money that’s been stolen. For example, it’s done this when:

  • A woman handed over her login details to a fraudster after she rang the number on the back of her debit card (while the fraudster was still on the line). She’d had an online banking facility but had never used it and she didn’t actually transfer the money herself. Instead, she unwittingly gave details to fraudsters so they could empty her account.
  • A man was called by someone from a ‘fraud team’ who called back what he thought were bank staff, but were in fact fraudsters, and gave the fraudsters a text confirmation code, believing it was going to cancel any fraudulent transactions. In fact, it just authorised the transaction taking money from his account to the fraudster’s.
  • A woman went to her bank branch and transferred £20,000 to a fraudster’s account, believing that the money was going to a safe account. She was asked if she was ‘doing anything nice’ with the money, but not in detail about what the money was being used for. Even though she’d authorised the transaction, the Financial Ombudsman told the bank to refund her money as there had been a similar case in the same branch just a few days earlier.

In both cases, the vishing victim didn’t actually transfer the money themselves, although they did give the fraudsters information they needed to do so.

SAVVY TIP: The Financial Ombudsman Service is a free to use service that you can complain to if you’re unhappy with your bank or financial provider. You can read how you can complain about your financial firm in my article about the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Related articles:

VIDEO: What to do if you’re a victim of ID fraud

How to avoid investment scams

10 scams to avoid – how to avoid telephone scams and other types of scam

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