Telephone fraud and vishing

Find out what telephone fraud and vishing is, along with how to spot and stop it

What is telephone fraud and vishing?

Telephone fraud and vishing are often unsolicited phone calls from fraudsters which encourage you to give out your personal details, such as your card, PIN, Mobile Banking App activation/passcodes or card reader codes.

Fraudsters may pretend to be from your bank

Fraudsters will call mobile phones or landlines pretending to be from your bank in order to get your personal information or ask you to move money from your personal bank account.

They may have some of your personal information

Such as name, address, or phone number, to make them seem genuine.

These calls will often seem urgent

To get you to act as quickly as possible, giving you minimal time to think about whether the call is fraudulent. The atmosphere and background noises can help the calls seem more convincing.

Sometimes you may get a 'warm up' call where no information is discussed.

This is to set the scene for a later call where you may be asked for information.

Vishing is a type of social engineering scam.

Examples of telephone fraud and vishing

  • Fraudsters might have done enough research about you to make you believe it’s a genuine call: “Is that John Smith speaking? Just going to confirm your personal details. Your address is … and your number is …”

  • Don’t trust a stranger who tells you to “act fast”. Fraudsters create a false sense of urgency so you have less time to think about what’s going on: “We want to get this sorted for you as quickly as possible, so if you can follow these instructions immediately...”

  • Fraudsters want to appear trustworthy, to make you feel as though they’re on your side. This is so that you’ll follow their instructions. This is sometimes known as a social engineering scam: “I know how stressful this must be for you, so I’m here to help and do everything I can to fix this.”

  • They might use words like “suspicious” to frighten you, without actually giving you any specific information about what’s happened: “We’ve detected some suspicious activity on your account.”

  • You may be told that there’s a ‘safe account’ for you to transfer your money to. This safe account can’t be trusted – you could be transferring your money straight to them: “We’ve set up a safe account where you can transfer your money.”

  • You might be asked to install software to protect your information. This gives the fraudsters access and control over your computer screen, so they can see you enter your financial details, like your card number or your Online Banking passcode: “Installing this protective software will prevent fraudulent activity on your account. Please install this and then log in to your Online Banking.”


Read our guide to keeping your data protected or look at our guide to social engineering to learn how to help you stop your details getting into the wrong hands.

How to spot a phone scam

  1. 1

    When answering a call
     

    Beware of phone spoofing - criminals use sophisticated technology to make the number calling you, appear like it's a genuine number, not their actual caller ID.
     

    Don't assume that because the call sounds genuine, that it is - Fraudsters can play recorded sounds in the background to make it sound like a call centre.
     

    If you receive a susipicious or unexpected call, always verify the caller using an independently checked phone number, such as a contact number from an official website.

  2. 2

    During a call


    Never give out the following details to anyone over the phone. Even if they claim to be from your bank or the police. This also includes typing numbers in to your keypad.
     

    • Your mobile banking app activitation code and password
    • Your full Online Banking pin
    • Your full Online Banking password
    • Any codes from your card reader
    • Any details from your debit or credit cards
       

    If you get anyone ask for these, end the call immediately.
     

  3. 3

    Other things to look out for

    Never be persuaded to download any software or visit a site because someone on the phone has told you to. This could be something called pharming. Find out what pharming is.

    Don't transfer any money at the request of an unexpected caller over the phone.

What to do if it happens

If a call seems suspicious end it immediately

Don't be rushed on a call. When you're forced to act quickly, it can be easy to misjudge a situation

Don't be afraid to hang up if you feel you're under pressure

Report fraud - Treat this scam as you would with fraudulent emails or SMS's. Report any suspicious incidents right away
 

Get further guidance

The little book of big scams

Helpful tip sheet to leave by your phone

Our guide to see if a NatWest call is genuine
 

If you've been the victim of fraud

Tell us straight away if you've given any details out or think you may be the victim of fraud or a scam.

Something else we can help you with?