According to new research from Financial Fraud Action UK (FFA), Brits could be scammed out of some £7 million every year by fraudsters targeting unsuspecting victims by telephone.

So-called “vishing” (yes, it’s a portmanteau of ‘voice’ and ‘phishing’) has risen steadily over the past year, with those aged 50 or over thought to be the biggest targets.

Vishing involves tricking people to reveal personal details or financial information over the telephone, which can then be used to make fraudulent payments or set up money transfers using a stolen identity.

Vishing for information

It has now been estimated that around a quarter of all UK adults could have been the victims of vishing in the past financial year, of which 43 per cent were aged 50 or above. In addition, around a third of British adults were thought to have received at least ten cold calls in the same time frame, with 41 per cent of these thinking that at least one was fraudulent or suspicious.

The survey of 2,000 adults by the FFA also found that four in ten people said they found it difficult to determine between genuine calls and those made by fraudsters. Much of this is because these crooks will often claim to be from the bank, local police or even an internet service provider. Under the guise of confirming security questions or matching up data, they can then extract sensitive information such as bank details, names and addresses from the individual.

In a statement, DCI Dave Carter, head of the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit told “Fraudsters can use personal information gleaned from vishing in a number of ways including to access a victim’s bank account, make fraudulent purchases and commit identity theft.

“Always be wary of cold callers who suggest you hang up the phone and call them back. Fraudsters will keep your phone line open by not putting down the receiver at their end,” says DCI Carter, referring to these criminals’ ploy to try to put their victims at ease.  While you think you are making a new call to a genuine number, you are, in fact, being kept on the line on the same call – they may even have a recording of a dial tone to make it seem genuine.

Carter added: “Remember that it takes two people to terminate a call, so try and use a different phone line if you are asked to ring back.”