Protecting yourself from telemarketing and retail scams over the phone

For this blog post, Get Cyber Safe has partnered with the Canadian Anti Fraud Centre (CAFC), who, like us, understands how important cyber security is to individuals as well as businesses. We thank them for being a dedicated partner in the cyber security of Canadians.

Protecting yourself from telemarketing and retail scams over the phone

The telephone was invented in 1876, but it remains a popular means of communications today. Just like phones have evolved over time, so have cyber criminals who are always finding clever and innovative ways to scam their victims over the phone. Voice phishing, known as vishing, is a growing trend in phishing techniques. Cyber criminals, known as “vishers” when vishing, use this technique to trick their victims into providing sensitive information over the phone, so they can steal from them. Telemarketing and retail scams are a type of vishing attack that targets older adults and Canadians of all ages for their sensitive and financial information. This blog post offers guidance on what to listen for in telemarketing and retail scams and simple tips you can use to protect yourself.

What is a telemarketing and retail scam

You’ve likely received calls from unknown phone numbers some that your call display identifies as “likely spam” or “unknown caller”. Maybe the phone number has been similar to yours, or even from a familiar organization. While some of us might ignore those calls, many of us don’t. It’s hard to resist a ringing phone. In a telemarketing and retail scams, the visher claims to be a company representative to trick victims into thinking they are being offered a service, special deal or a refund for a purchase. They’ll often use fraudulent phone numbers, spoofed or fake caller ID and voice altering software to look and sound convincing. The visher will ask for personal or sensitive information, like banking information, to secure the service or refund. However, the visher has no intention of providing a service or refund, their only goal is to steal from their victims with the information provided.

Commons signs to listen for

Here are some common signs to look out for during a telemarketing and retail scam vishing call.

  • There is a noticeable delay at the beginning of the call and there is poor audio quality
  • The caller is trying to sell you an unsolicited service or provide you with an unexpected refund
    • a reputable organization will not use a phone call to make offers that require your sensitive information
  • You’re asked to provide personal or sensitive information in the call, often right away, or over another source, such as a follow up email or verification text
  • The caller tries to pressure you by creating a sense of urgency to get you to act fast
  • The caller may become irritated and start using abusive or unprofessional language

How to protect yourself

It’s always best to be cautious when it comes to a suspicious phone call. Vishers can be very persuasive, but here are some simple tips to help protect yourself from telemarketing and retail scams.

  • Take a moment to pause and think why this organization would be contacting you
  • Don’t feel obligated to engage in conversation – it’s okay to hang up
  • Never provide sensitive information like your Social Insurance Number or banking information over the phone
  • Don’t use your phone’s call back feature or call them using a number the caller provided
    • Call the company back using legitimate contact information found on their official secured website
  • Register your phone number on Canada’s Do Not Call list (DNCL) to minimize the number of telemarketing calls your receive
  • Check your smart phone for spam protection features to help block and report spam calls
  • Consider using a call blocker application to reject unwanted calls

If you unintentionally provide sensitive information, like a username and password to a visher, change them right away. Alert your financial institution immediately if you provided any banking or credit card information. Make sure to report any suspicious calls to your local police and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre’s online reporting system or by phone at 1-888-495-8501.


It’s unlikely that a company will contact you by telephone to offer you a service or process a refund. The best way to protect yourself is by being aware of telemarketing and retails scams and learning the common signs to listen for. Following simple steps to protect yourself can help you from falling victim to this type of vishing attack.

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