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07 Jul 2006

PayPal phone phish scam uses voice recording to steal money

You may know an online company's real url, but do you know their phone number?

Experts at SophosLabs™, Sophos's global network of virus, spyware and spam analysis centers, have warned of a new phishing email that attempts to trick PayPal users into calling a phone number and parting with their credit card information.

The phishing email pretends to come from PayPal and asks recipients to call a phone number
The email asks recipients to call a phone number.

The email, which purports to come from PayPal, claims that the recipient's account has been the subject of fraudulent activity. However, unlike normal phishing emails, there is no internet link or response address. Instead, the email urges the recipient to call a phone number and verify their details. When dialled, users are greeted by an automated voice saying:

"Welcome to account verification. Please type your 16 digit card number."

Listen to a WAV file of the phone message (203 KB).

Once the credit card details are entered, the scammer is free to steal the information for their own gain. If incorrect card details are entered, a request for re-entry is made, further enhancing the legitimacy of the fraudulent telephone number, which is still live.

"Users that type in their card information may think they're verifying their PayPal account, but in actual fact, they're handing their details over to cyber criminals on a plate," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "Though it's an American telephone number, the fact that PayPal is used globally means that anyone could potentially be tricked into making the call."

Sophos researchers believe that PayPal's brand has been used in the scam because it is so well known worldwide.

"This voice phishing or 'vishing' scam underlines a real problem for online companies in how they communicate with their customers. Many users are beginning to learn to not click on links in unsolicited emails, and only visit the legitimate websites run by their favourite brands, but how many would know whether a phone number for their website is genuine or not?," continued Cluley. "As hackers get smarter we are likely to see them increasingly not only set up fake websites, but 'harvest' messages from corporate switchboard systems to appear even more like the legitimate company."

Sophos recommends users protect themselves with a consolidated solution which can defend them from the threats of both spam and viruses; and that they exercise caution with unsolicited emails.

About Sophos

More than 100 million users in 150 countries rely on Sophos as the best protection against complex threats and data loss. Sophos is committed to providing complete security solutions that are simple to deploy, manage, and use and that deliver the industry's lowest total cost of ownership. Sophos offers award-winning encryption, endpoint security, web, email, mobile and network security solutions backed by SophosLabs - a global network of threat intelligence centers.

Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at