FBI warns of rise in phone-based 'vishing' attacks

VoIP and call-center technology have enabled scammers to take phishing tactics to mobile phones, a trick the FBI is calling 'vishing'

With consumers finally getting wise to phishing attacks, scammers are hitting the phones.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) warned Thursday that so-called "vishing" attacks are on the rise. These are scams where criminals send an e-mail or text message to a victim, saying there has been a security problem and the victim needs to call his or her bank to reactivate a credit or debit card.

"Upon calling the telephone number, the recipient is greeted with 'Welcome to the bank of ...' and then [is] requested to enter their card number in order to resolve a pending security issue," the IC3 said in its alert.

In the past few years, inexpensive VoIP technology and open-source call-center software has made it inexpensive for scammers to set up phony call centers, paving the way for these new types of scams. Security experts say that vishing can be more effective than traditional phishing techniques -- which direct victims to fake Web sites -- because the voice-based attacks have not been as widely publicized.

A new vishing scam involves sending text messages to cell phones, instructing victims to contact the fake online bank to renew their accounts, the IC3 said.

Those who are unsure whether they have been targeted by this scam should look up the bank's phone number and call the bank directly, the IC3 advises.

Operated in partnership with the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, the IC3 is a clearing house for Internet crime complaints.

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