Vishing: Phone Phishing

What is vishing?

Vishing (phone phishing) is the “practice of eliciting information or attempting to influence action via the telephone.” Like email phishing, once the visher has your information they can steal your identity to obtain access to your bank account, credit card, or even your paycheck.

How do you identify a vish?

Like email phishing, the scams are often announcements that you’ve won a prize or offering a good deal on some valued product or service. Once you bite, the scammer will ask for your credit card number or other personal information. These scammers won’t give you time to think about their pitch; they just want you to say “yes.” If you ask questions, they may direct you to a website or otherwise send information featuring (fake) “satisfied customers.” Watch out for:

  • Offers from companies you do not do business with and/or have not heard of.
  • An announcement that you have won a prize in a contest you did not enter.
  • Promises of unrealistic returns for your money.
  • Pressure to make immediate decisions to give the caller what they want, which may include:
    • Money
    • Financial account information
    • Personal information
    • Organizational information, including names and contact information of coworkers at the university
  • Threats of consequences—such as fines or penalties—if you don’t provide money or information.
  • Unprofessional, hostile, or even obscene language.
  • Unsolicited calls offering to help you with debt, unpaid taxes, or previous cases of fraud.

Learn more about these and other signs of a scam at Federal Trade Commission (FTC): Phone Scams.

Protect Yourself from Voice Phishing

The FCC recommends asking yourself these questions to when you get an unexpected sales call:

  • Who’s calling… and why? The law says telemarketers must tell you it’s a sales call, the name of the seller and what they’re selling before they make their pitch. If you don’t hear this information, say “no thanks,” and get off the phone.
  • What’s the hurry? Fast talkers who use high pressure tactics could be hiding something. Take your time. Most legitimate businesses will give you time and written information about an offer before asking you to commit to a purchase.
  • If it’s free, why are they asking me to pay? Question fees you need to pay to redeem a prize or gift. Free is free. If you have to pay, it’s a purchase — not a prize or a gift.
  • Why am I “confirming” my account information — or giving it out? Some callers have your billing information before they call you. They’re trying to get you to say “okay” so they can claim you approved a charge.
  • What time is it? The law allows telemarketers to call only between 8 am and 9 pm. A seller calling earlier or later is ignoring the law.
  • Do I want more calls like this one? If you don’t want a business to call you again, say so and register your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. If they call back, they’re breaking the law.

Some Additional Guidelines

The IRS will never ask you for debit or credit card numbers by phone or demand immediate payments using specific methods, such as prepaid gift cards, debit cards, or wire transfers. The IRS will generally contact you first via U.S. Mail.

  • Resist pressure to make a decision immediately.
  • Keep your credit card, checking account, or Social Security numbers to yourself. Don’t tell them to callers you don’t know — even if they ask you to “confirm” this information. That’s a trick.
  • Don’t pay for something just because you’ll get a “free gift.”
  • Get all information in writing before you agree to buy.
  • Check out a charity before you give. Ask how much of your donation actually goes to the charity. Ask the caller to send you written information so you can make an informed decision without being pressured, rushed, or guilted into it.
  • If the offer is an investment, check with your state securities regulator to see if the offer — and the offeror — are properly registered.
  • Don’t send cash by messenger, overnight mail, or money transfer. If you use cash or a money transfer — rather than a credit card — you may lose your right to dispute fraudulent charges. The money will be gone.
  • Don’t agree to any offer for which you have to pay a “registration” or “shipping” fee to get a prize or a gift.
  • Research offers with your consumer protection agency or state Attorney General’s office before you agree to send money.
  • Beware of offers to “help” you recover money you have already lost. Callers that say they are law enforcement officers who will help you get your money back “for a fee” are scammers.
  • Report any caller who is rude or abusive, even if you already sent them money. They’ll want more. Call 1-877-FTC-HELP or visit
  • Don’t trust caller ID. Phone numbers and caller identities can be faked. There have been reports of forged phone numbers from U-M, government offices, and other businesses and institutions.
  • Add your phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry to reduce unwanted sales calls.

Follow this guidance from the FTC:

How to Handle an Unexpected Sales Call

What To Do About Pre-Recorded Calls