Like phishing, pretexting's main goal is to obtain your personal information under false pretenses. Pretexting is far more sophisticated and personal. After the initial call, the “pretexter” calls back at a later time and impersonates your banking institution, claiming there is an error of some sort in your account. Using the information you provided him/her during the initial call, the criminal convinces you to believe the call is authentic. He/she will then contact your banking institution requesting authorized access to your account. Now, you are a victim of identity theft!

There are countless pretexting scenarios, ranging from simple to intricate. The popular scenario facing our University community is a “pretexter” claiming to be from Microsoft stating that the user’s computer is sending warning signals to the corporation and the “representative” needs remote access to your computer to resolve the issue. Meanwhile, malware is installed, gathering sensitive information or accessing private systems.

Here are some tips on how to protect yourself from pretexting:
  • Check for credentials. Verify the identity of the person you are speaking with.
  • Ask for a direct line to call back and compare the number to the contact information on the bank of debit/credit cards, billing statements, and other materials.
  • Ask the person precise questions that may cause the criminal to hang up if they feel you are on to them.
  • Research the name of the person or company the person is representing. If there is no legitimate information that comes forth, you may want to discontinue the conversation.
  • Do not give out personal information on the phone, unless you initiated the contact and know the person you are dealing with.
  • Choose a more complex password and stray away from using pet names, favorite colors, and other easily obtained information in your password.
  • Ask your financial institution about their policies for preventing pretexting.

Have questions? We're here to help!

If you have questions about cybersecurity, or if you want to learn more about how to stay safe online, contact the Information Security Office (ISO) at: