FRAUDSTERS love a WhatsApp scam – and their tricks are constantly evolving.
Conmen have swindled people out of thousands, preying on the vulnerable and using scare tactics to lure victims.
Users need to think twice when receiving an odd message that doesn’t seem quite right.
And here are some of the big ones to look out for:
“Hello mum” and “Hello dad” scams
It’s easy to rush to the aid of loved ones without a second thought.
And that’s precisely what scammers depend on to pull off this nasty con, dubbed the “friend in need” rip-off.
Usually, it’ll come from an unknown number claiming to be someone you know who has lost their phone or been locked out of their account for some reason.
They reach out for help, asking for financial assistance, usually for you to send money to an account.
A 75-year-old man recently revealed how he was conned out of £1,500 by someone posing as his granddaughter in need.
“These kinds of scams are particularly cruel as they prey on our kindness and desire to help friends and family,” said Louise Baxter, head of the National Trading Standards scams team.
The best thing to do is ring the person from a known number you have saved.
Don’t just send money without checking.
Security code scams
Similar to the “friend in need” scam, con artists once again pose as friends and family here.
But this time they’re after SMS security codes – though the end game is always stealing money, of course.
It starts off when you receive a six-digital WhatsApp code you weren’t expecting.
These are normally needed to set up a new account or when you’re logging in from a new device.
Fraudsters will then send you a WhatsApp message asking for the code, from an account that appears to be a friend.
WhatsApp – a quick history
Here’s what you need to know…
- WhatsApp was created in 2009 by computer programmers Brian Acton and Jan Koum – former employees of Yahoo
- It’s one of the most popular messaging services in the world
- Koum came up with the name WhatsApp because it sounded like “what’s up”
- After a number of tweaks the app was released with a messaging component in June 2009, with 250,000 active users
- It was originally free but switched to a paid service to avoid growing too fast. Then in 2016, it became free again for all users
- Facebook bought WhatsApp Inc in February 2014 for $19.3billion (£14.64bn)
- The app is particularly popular because all messages are encrypted during transit, shutting out snoopers
- As of 2020, WhatsApp has over 2billion users globally
Sadly, they have probably already been compromised.
Pretending to be your friend, the bad actor will make out that for some reason they’re locked out of their account and accidentally sent the access code to your phone instead of their own.
They’ll ask you to send over a screenshot.
Once they have the code, they can access your account, messaging other friends and family pretending to be you, carrying out attacks such as the “friend in need” scam, among others.
Don’t ever share codes out with others, even those you know – it’s just too risky.
If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t real.
That principle has been around long before WhatsApp and yet the problem remains.
Tricksters send out false vouchers promising significant shopping discounts for supermarkets like Tesco, Sainsbury’s and many more.
This usually include a malicious link which requests you complete a survey to get hold of the voucher.
The survey will ask for sensitive data, particularly financial information, which criminals can take and use as they please.
Meanwhile, you’re left damagingly out of pocket and with no voucher in sight.
Supermarkets and shops don’t really distribute vouchers in this way, so it’s best to ignore them.
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And internet users have been urged to check their online accounts against one of 2021’s worst cyber threats.
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