Internet telephone services, such as Vonage, Dialpad, Skype and others, are quickly becoming a very popular way to use Voice over IP technology to provide cheap, and even free, telephone service across broadband connections.
Unfortunately, the growth of this industry has also helped criminal scam artists, as reported in a recent CNN Money article.
Because the technology behind internet telephone services is new, and because the connections are made across the open network of the Internet, it’s easier for the criminal element to penetrate and manipulate the system compared to the older proprietory landlines of the telephone companies. This has resulted in situations where scam artists have been able to make telephone calls that appear to be coming from corporations such as banks and credit card companies. The criminals then convince unsuspecting customers, who believe they’re talking to legitimate company representitives due to falsified Caller ID information, to give them sensitive account information they can then use to steal from.
When high-profile companies like Western Union have been fooled by these high tech scam artists, it’s a warning sign for consumers to beware telephone calls asking them for account details. As a customer, you should remember that your bank and credit card company should already have your information in their systems, so they shouldn’t be calling you up to ask for it over the telephone. If a caller insists on getting the information, you should consider hanging up and calling the support line for the company the caller is claiming to represent. While the potential scam artist can easily fool the current Caller ID system, they’ll have a hard time taking over incoming telephone calls to the legitimate company, allowing you to make sure you’re dealing with a legitimate request.
Internet telephone networks will go a long way towards making voice communication cheap for everyone, but like most technology the benefits come with the potential for abuse, so as a consumer, stay alert.