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How TOADs are Attacking Businesses: Risks, Impacts, and Solutions

Recent statistics show that TOADs account for over 60% of all call center fraud attempts, making it a major concern for organizations that rely on call centers to conduct business.

How TOADs are Attacking Businesses: Risks, Impacts, and Solutions

What is TOAD Attack

Telephone oriented attack deliveries (TOADs) are becoming an increasingly common threat to businesses across the globe. Recent statistics show that TOADs account for over 60% of all call center fraud attempts, making it a major concern for organizations that rely on call centers to conduct business. In the UK alone, businesses have lost over £500 million to these types of scams, with no end in sight to this growing problem.

TOADs are a type of phishing scam where cybercriminals use real phone numbers to impersonate legitimate callers, tricking victims into revealing sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details. Scammers may also use this information to take over accounts or make fraudulent purchases, resulting in significant financial losses for businesses.

The Effects of TOAD Attacks on Business

The impact of Voice Phishing Threat (TOAD) on businesses can be severe, with significant financial losses, reputation damage, decreased business productivity, and a loss of customer trust.

  • According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States, businesses reported losing a total of $1.8 billion to imposter scams, including vishing, in 2020 alone.
  • The Better Business Bureau (BBB) in the US also reported that businesses lost an average of $7,640 to vishing scams in 2020, with some individual losses reaching as high as $500,000.
  • In a survey conducted by Pindrop Security in 2019, nearly 60% of businesses reported that they had experienced a vishing attack in the previous 12 months. The average financial loss reported by these businesses was $43,000 per incident, with some losses exceeding $1 million.
  • In the UK, the cost of fraud to businesses reached £1.2 billion in 2020, according to a report by UK Finance. The report found that vishing was one of the most common types of fraud reported by businesses, with losses totaling £37.8 million.

It is clear that TOAD can result in significant financial losses to businesses, with some individual losses reaching into the millions of dollars. However, the exact cost of these attacks can vary widely depending on a range of factors, and it can be difficult to measure the total impact of voice scams on businesses worldwide. But, these losses can be devastating for small and medium-sized enterprises, leading to bankruptcy in some cases.

Additionally, businesses that fall victim to TOADs may lose customers' trust, resulting in long-term reputation damage and lost revenue.

How do TOAD Attacks Happen?

Callback phishing, also known as TOAD, tricks people into calling certain phone numbers. These numbers usually connect you to fake call centers. When someone calls, they can be fooled into installing malicious software or tools on their computers.

Let's look at an example to see TOAD attacks happens:

  1. The Initial Contact: A user receives an email, which appears to be from a reputable company, such as Amazon or PayPal.
  2. The Fake Invoice: Within the email, there's an invoice for a large purchase that the user doesn't recall making. Despite being fake, the invoice looks very authentic, mimicking real ones.
  3. Raising Suspicion: The invoice raises alarm bells for the recipient. What's peculiar here is that there are no links to click or attachments to open, which diverges from typical phishing scams.
  4. Prompting a Call: The email urges the recipient to dial a customer service number, often pretending to be in the US, for any inquiries about the invoice. Concerned, the user decides to make the call.
  5. The Deception: On the other end of the line is a scammer, not a genuine customer service agent. They convince the user they can sort out the issue but need access to the user's computer to do so. They guide the user to download what is claimed to be a support tool, which is actually malware allowing remote access.
  6. The Consequence: With the malware installed, the scammer gains complete access to the user's computer, risking personal information and further exploitation. This method is distinct from regular phishing attempts, leveraging direct phone interaction to manipulate the victim, adding a layer of complexity beyond digital phishing schemes.

It's also worth noting that attackers might not directly install malware themselves. Sometimes, they direct the user to a website that downloads malware, like BazaLoader, which then can introduce various types of harmful software.

Example of TOAD Attacks

Here are some real-world examples of TOAD attacks:

  • The Amazon Customer Vishing Scam: Back in 2020, con artists impersonated Amazon employees and reached out to Amazon customers via phone calls or voicemails. These scammers didn't specifically target any particular person or organization.
  • The Scam Involving IRS Impersonation: This type of scam has persisted for years, affecting individuals and businesses throughout the United States. The IRS cautioned people in 2019 about a surge in such scams. No specific victims have been named.
  • The One-Ring Scam Warning: In 2019, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) alerted the public about the one-ring scam, which targeted people and businesses across the country. The victims in this case remain unidentified.
  • The Escalation of Tech Support Scams: In 2018, Microsoft published a report revealing a 24% increase in tech support scams from the previous year. The affected individuals have not been disclosed.
  • The Social Security Scam Alert: In 2018, the Social Security Administration (SSA) warned the public about a new scheme involving scammers pretending to be SSA employees and asking individuals for their personal information. No victims have been named.
  • The Marriott Data Breach Incident: Marriott International disclosed a data breach in 2018 that had persisted since 2014. The breach compromised the personal details of nearly 500 million clients, including their names, phone numbers, email addresses, passport numbers, and credit card data. The culprits reportedly employed phone phishing to infiltrate Marriott's system.
  • The Capital One Data Breach Announcement: In 2019, Capital One revealed a data breach that exposed the personal information of more than 100 million customers and applicants, including names, addresses, phone numbers, and credit scores. The attacker exploited a misconfigured firewall and used phone calls and emails to deceive Capital One employees into providing access to the company's cloud storage.
  • The Twitter Bitcoin Scam Incident: In 2020, multiple high-profile Twitter accounts, such as those of Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Barack Obama, were compromised in a bitcoin scam. The hackers employed phone phishing to access the accounts and subsequently posted tweets encouraging followers to send bitcoin to a specific address with the promise of a larger return.
  • The WhatsApp Spyware Attack: A security flaw in WhatsApp was exploited by an Israeli cyber intelligence firm in 2019 to plant spyware on the phones of journalists, human rights activists, and political dissidents. The attackers allegedly used phone calls to initiate the spyware installation.

How to Take Effective Countermeasures

To combat the growing threat of TOADs, businesses can implement various solutions.

  • Educate employees: Train your employees to recognize and report potential TOADs. Teach them how to identify suspicious phone calls and emails, and provide them with clear guidelines on how to respond to these types of attacks.
  • Stay up-to-date on emerging threats: Use Vishing Simulation tools, which is training exercise designed to educate employees and raise security awareness training about voice phishing. It involves simulating a voice phishing attack and evaluating how employees respond to the attack.
  • Implement multi-factor authentication: Require multi-factor authentication for all sensitive accounts and transactions. This can help prevent fraudsters from gaining access to your systems, even if they have obtained some of your employees' login credentials.
  • Use call blocking and filtering technologies: Implement call blocking and filtering technologies to prevent known fraudsters and robocallers from reaching your employees and customers.
  • Establish clear policies and procedures: Establish clear policies and procedures for handling sensitive information over the phone. Make sure your employees understand these policies and procedures, and enforce them consistently.

How to Prevent Voice Phishing Attacks with Keepnet?

At Keepnet Labs, we recognize the significance of safeguarding your business from the threat of telephone scams (TOAD, Vishing Scams). To help you achieve this, we provide you with a Vishing Simulator product that enables you to assess and train your employees by conducting simulated phone calls. By monitoring your employees' reactions to these mock attacks, we help you equip your staff with crucial insights for your organization's readiness against threats, pinpointing areas that require enhancement.

Furthermore, we focus on educating employees and raising awareness about voice phishing attacks. After simulating realistic attack scenarios and evaluating employee responses, we customize your training and awareness programs to bolster your business's defenses against such threats.

Take a proactive step towards protecting your business with Keepnet Labs' risk-free and compliance-ready fraud protection solutions. Schedule a demo or contact us for a free trial today.

Watch Keepnet's Webinar on YouTube and see how vishing works, impacts and Vishing Simulator to fight againts TOAD, voice phishing attacks.



Schedule your 30-minute demo now!

You'll learn how to:
tickAutomate behaviour-based security awareness training for employees to identify and report threats: phishing, vishing, smishing, quishing, MFA phishing, callback phishing!
tickAutomate phishing analysis by 187x and remove threats from inboxes 48x faster.
tickUse our AI-driven human-centric platform with Autopilot and Self-driving features to efficiently manage human cyber risks.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Telephone Oriented Attack Delivery (TOAD) and how does it operate?

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A Telephone Oriented Attack Delivery (TOAD) is a sophisticated form of phishing where attackers use telephone systems to impersonate legitimate organizations or authorities. The goal is to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information such as bank details, social security numbers, or login credentials. These attacks are meticulously planned, with fraudsters often using caller ID spoofing to appear more credible, thereby increasing the chances of deceiving their targets.

How do TOADs impact call center security and customer trust?

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TOADs pose a significant threat to call center operations by exploiting the trust between customers and service representatives. When fraudsters successfully impersonate agents, they can illicitly obtain personal information, leading to unauthorized transactions and data breaches. This not only results in financial losses for the company but also erodes customer trust, which can have long-term repercussions on business reputation and customer loyalty.

What are the financial consequences of TOADs for businesses, and how can they affect long-term operations?

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The financial consequences of TOADs can be devastating. Direct losses from fraudulent transactions can be substantial, and the indirect costs, including legal fees, fines, and the expenses associated with strengthening security measures post-attack, can compound the financial strain. Additionally, businesses may face increased insurance premiums and a loss of business due to damaged customer relationships. For some businesses, especially SMEs, this can affect long-term viability and may lead to downsizing or closure.

Can you give examples of TOAD attacks that have occurred recently and their impact?

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Notable examples of TOAD attacks include the widespread Amazon Customer Vishing Scam, where individuals received calls from fraudsters claiming to be Amazon support staff, leading to unauthorized access to Amazon accounts. Similarly, the IRS Impersonation Scam involved calls from individuals claiming to be IRS agents, demanding payments and threatening legal action. These incidents not only led to direct financial losses for the victims but also heightened public concern over telephone security.

What measures can organizations take to prevent TOADs and enhance telephone security?

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Organizations can adopt a multi-faceted approach to prevent TOADs. This includes implementing stringent security protocols like multi-factor authentication, conducting regular security awareness training for employees, and utilizing advanced telecommunication security measures such as voice biometrics and anomaly detection systems. Additionally, maintaining up-to-date contact lists and verifying caller identities can help in mitigating the risks associated with these attacks.

What is the average loss per vishing incident for a business, and how does it affect small vs. large enterprises?

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The average loss per vishing incident for businesses is around $7,640, but this can vary widely. Small businesses may feel the impact more acutely as they often lack the financial buffer to absorb such losses, which can represent a significant percentage of their revenue. In contrast, while large enterprises may be able to withstand the immediate financial impact, they must contend with potential stock price drops and loss of consumer confidence, which can have substantial long-term effects.

How do TOADs threaten the financial stability of small businesses, and what can they do to protect themselves?

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TOADs can be particularly threatening to the financial stability of small businesses due to their limited resources for recovery. Such businesses can protect themselves by investing in employee training, adopting robust verification processes for telephone interactions, and engaging with cybersecurity firms that offer specialized defenses against such attacks. Proactive measures, rather than reactive responses, are key to safeguarding against TOADs.

Why is employee training crucial in combating TOADs, and what should such training entail?

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Employee training is a critical defense against TOADs as it empowers staff with the knowledge to identify and respond to fraudulent calls. Effective training should include recognizing the signs of a vishing attempt, understanding the protocols for verifying caller identity, and knowing the immediate steps to take when a suspected attack is identified. Regular drills and updates on the latest scam tactics can keep employees vigilant.

What are Vishing Simulation tools and how do they help in preparing employees?

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Vishing Simulation tools are interactive training programs that simulate real-life vishing attacks in a controlled environment. They help prepare employees by providing hands-on experience in detecting and responding to phishing calls without the risk of actual data loss. These simulations can be tailored to mimic recent vishing techniques and help organizations identify weak points in their security posture.

How does Keepnet Labs assist companies in defending against TOADs, and what services do they offer?

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Keepnet Labs assists companies by offering comprehensive training and simulation tools designed to prepare employees for TOADs. Their services include creating realistic vishing scenarios, monitoring employee responses, and providing detailed feedback to help improve security protocols. They also offer continuous education on the latest phishing techniques, ensuring that companies and their employees are always one step ahead of fraudsters.

What are the signs of a TOAD attack, and how can employees recognize them?

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The signs of a TOAD attack can include unexpected requests for sensitive information, high-pressure tactics, discrepancies in the caller's information, and calls outside of normal business hours. Employees should be trained to recognize these red flags and to verify the caller's identity through independent means before proceeding with any requests.

How can businesses recover from a TOAD attack, and what steps should be taken immediately after detection?

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Recovery from a TOAD attack involves a series of steps including conducting a thorough investigation, notifying affected customers, working with law enforcement, and reviewing and improving security measures. Immediate actions include isolating affected systems, changing passwords, and suspending any compromised accounts to limit further damage.

What technologies can detect and prevent TOADs, and how effective are they?

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Technologies that can detect and prevent TOADs include AI-driven call analysis systems, which can flag unusual call patterns, and voice biometrics, which can verify a caller's identity based on their voice print. These technologies are highly effective when integrated into a company's security framework and can significantly reduce the incidence of successful TOAD attacks.

What role does customer awareness play in preventing TOADs, and how can businesses educate their customers?

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Customer awareness is a vital component in preventing TOADs. Businesses can educate their customers by providing information on how to recognize and respond to suspicious calls, including when and how the company may contact them for sensitive information. Regular communication through newsletters, social media, and customer service channels can help keep customers informed and vigilant.

How can multi-factor authentication thwart TOAD attempts, and what are the best practices for its implementation?

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Multi-factor authentication (MFA) thwarts TOAD attempts by requiring additional verification methods beyond just a password, such as a temporary code sent to a user's mobile device or a fingerprint scan. Best practices for MFA implementation include choosing authentication factors that are not easily intercepted or replicated by attackers, educating employees and customers on its importance, and ensuring that backup authentication methods are secure.

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