Personal information is being stolen via a new line-trapping scam that allows fraudsters to stay connected after victims hangs up. Fraudsters pose as policemen and bank employees, for example, to steal identities and money from victims.
How Does the Line-Trapping Scam Work?
Using this scam, fraudsters cold call members of the public pretending to be from a trusted organization such as the police, a utility company or the bank. Their aim is to have victims disclose either personal or financial information during the call, which is known as phishing. The information is then used by the scammers to conduct identity theft or to steal the victims’ money.
The public is more and more aware and wary of phone-based phishing scams. However, fraudsters are using a new tactic to convince people of their supposed identity. If the person is reluctant to pass on the information being requested, the person is told to hang up and phone back on a number they trust, such as from an organization’s official website or from the back of the victim’s bank card.
Next, using a new tactic, the fraudsters stay connected using line-trapping technology even when the victim hangs up. Consequently, when the victim calls the official phone number, they are actually just calling back the fraudsters.
Recent Line-Trapping Scam Cases
Recent cases of this line-trapping scam have been reported in both the US and Australia. In each case different stories were used to draw in the victim. What was common in all cases was that victims are finally convinced to hand over the information or the money because they had called what they thought was an official phone number.
Line-trapping case in the US
A US victim was persuaded to hand over money and personal information after receiving a phone call supposedly from the police. Fraudsters impersonating a police officer told the woman she had been a victim of identity theft. Since the victim was wary, she was instructed to call her local police branch to confirm the details.
However, when the victim hung up to call the police, the line-trapping technology used in these scams reconnected the victim’s phone line to the fraudsters instead of the police. Therefore, when the victim thought she was speaking to the police to confirm details, she was actually just speaking to the fraudsters again.
Line-trapping case in Australia
The Australian victim proved to be luckier than the US victim as she only had a close call. In this instance the victim received a call from a supposed high‑end Melbourne jewelry store. The fraudster told the victim that they had someone in store trying to use her credit card details to buy thousands of dollars’ worth of goods. When she heard this, the victim told the fraudster not to process the sale, which he agreed to do, and advised her to immediately call her bank and report the incident.
The victim called the bank with the number on the back of her credit card and spoke to someone identifying themselves as a bank employee. She then provided the fake bank employee with personal information, including bank account details and balances. The victim was then told by the fraudster not to cancel her credit cards, which she found rather odd.
Consequently, she visited her bank branch in person and was told she had been the victim of a scam. The branch then proceeded to block the credit card before the fraudsters were able to use it.
Members of the public receiving phishing calls, should hang up and wait 10 minutes or more before ringing back. Evidence suggests that the line-trapping technology being used in these scams has a time limit of several minutes. The other safer options are to call back from a different line or visit the organization in person.