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Orange phone hanging off the hook with the following words coming out in grey writing (all we need is your social security number, No? Okay, how about …. Your account number? )“Vishing” or “voice phishing” is the latest variation of phishing emails.

Many consumers have wised-up to phishing emails which often come in the guise of a bank, credit card or online trading company asking you to verify or update your online details by clicking on a link. The link takes you to a fake “look-alike” website. Once you fill in your details, the information is harvested by the scammers to access your bank account or credit card, or to steal your identity.

Phishing emails have become more sophisticated. A new practice called “spear-phishing” has emerged which includes accurate information, such as your name and address, in the email to make it more convincing.

“Vishing” emails operate slightly differently. Rather than asking you to reply by clicking on a link, the “vishing” email asks you to call a number and provide confidential banking details over the phone.

When the number is called, a recorded message will ask you to provide personal information. The scammers use a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone which records digits, such as account numbers, entered into the telephone.

A more insidious version of this “dial a dollar” does not use email at all. Instead you are contacted by phone and asked for personal information.

If you receive an email or telephone call that requests you provide personal information, do not comply. Instead independently locate the number of the institution supposedly making the call, and contact them to check the legitimacy of the request. Do not use the telephone number provided by the caller.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that scammers are minor backroom operators. This is big business involving crime gangs who can have access to very sophisticated equipment. Unfortunately, consumers must be wary of any unsolicited call requesting personal information.

Spam, or electronic junk email, is a Federal offence. If you have been a target of spam please contact the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) at www.acma.gov.au . You can also download and install ACMA’s SpamMATTERS on your computer which allows you to simultaneously delete the spam and report it to ACMA with one click of your mouse.