Impersonation has always been a common and effective tactic used by scammers. If a hacker can compromise a company’s voicemail system, they can follow up with customer inquiries (and request payment and personal information) without the business ever knowing.
How the scam works
You contact a business through their verified phone number and leave a voicemail request for work to be completed, along with your contact information. A short while later, you receive a follow-up text message, supposedly from the business, requesting additional project details and a deposit through an untraceable payment method.
Upon issuing payment, another request for money is made to “finalize the paperwork.” When you call the company for further discussion and speak to an actual representative, you discover the company’s voicemail was hacked, and all of your previous correspondence and payment went to a scammer.
A Western Pennsylvania woman recently reported a voicemail hacking incident to BBB. She contacted a business and left a voicemail, requesting that the business patch and replace broken concrete on her parents’ porch and steps. After the “business” returned her call by text message, requesting photos of the project and a $50 deposit be sent via Venmo (a BBB Accredited Business), she complied and received an additional $50 payment request, along with a promise to cancel the first deposit.
Upon receiving further correspondence requesting 50% of the job to be paid before the paperwork could be finalized, the victim called the business through her original contact method. She discovered the phone numbers did not match up with the texts she had received, and she had no interaction with the actual company – because their voicemail had been hacked, and a scammer intercepted her original message.
If you don’t change the default PIN/passcode on your voicemail account, you or your company could risk having your voicemail hacked!
BBB offers these tips to avoid voicemail hacking scams:
- Always update your default voicemail PIN/passcode every few months.
- If your voicemail system allows it, set a PIN/passcode longer than four digits.
- Avoid using an obvious PIN/passcode, such as an address, birth date, phone number, repeating numbers (000000), or consecutive numbers (123456).
- Check your recorded voicemail greeting regularly to ensure it is the same and verify your call settings (respond with text, call forwarding, call waiting, etc.) are accurate.
- Confirm all contact information for a business is accurate and consistent.
- Avoid untraceable payment methods. Scammers often ask for payment through mobile transfer apps, wired funds, and gift cards because they are difficult to track, and there is little recourse to get your money back. It is always best to make large purchases by credit card.
For more information
Keep your business safe by learning how to spot and avoid a scam at your BBB business scam HQ: BBB.org/BizScams. If you have been the victim of this or another scam, inform others by filing a report on BBB.org/ScamTracker.