Voicemail scams are on the rise, according to Paul Ducklin at Naked Security. These scams are a form of voice phishing (“vishing”) in which scammers churn out automated phone calls and leave pre-recorded messages when the calls go to voicemail. Like Nigerian prince email scams, this tactic allows scammers to weed out the people who are savvy enough to recognize the scam immediately.

“The theory behind recognising and reacting to voicemail prompts is obvious: many people understandably refuse to answer calls from numbers they don’t know, and program them to go through to voicemail automatically,” Ducklin explains. “By leaving automated messages in the same way that many legitimate companies do, such as taxi-booking firms, the criminals avoid having to get involved personally at the start. This not only saves the crooks time, but also – by asking you to make a voicemail choice such as pressing ‘1’ or staying on the line – pre-selects those people who haven’t figured out right away that it’s a scam.”

Fortunately, most of these scams are easy to recognize once you know what they look like. Ducklin concludes with advice on how to avoid falling victim to scams:

“Don’t try. Don’t buy. Don’t reply. Memorise this easily-remembered saying that the Australian cybersecurity industry came up with many years ago. It’s a neat way of reminding yourself how to deal with spammers and online charlatans.

“Don’t let yourself get sucked or seduced into talking to the scammers at all. We advise against what’s called ‘scambaiting’ – the pastime of deliberately leading scammers on, especially over the phone, in the hope that it might be amusing to see who’s at the other end. You’re talking to a crook, so the best thing that can happen to you is nothing.

“Contact companies you know using information you already have. If you are worried about a fraudulent transaction, login to your account yourself, or call the company’s helpline yourself.

“Never rely on information provided inside an email, or read out to you in a call. Don’t return a call to a number given by the caller. If it’s a scammer, you will not only end up talking to them, but also confirm any guesses (e.g. ‘you applied for a loan’ or ‘it’s about your Amazon account’) that the scammer made in the initial contact.”

New-school security awareness training can help your employees recognize social engineering tactics and follow security best practices.