Several police forces across the UK said WhatsApp scammers are continuing to target users and hijack their accounts.
The scam has existed for a while but continues to catch people out.
WhatsApp said users should never hand over their security codes to anybody, even if they appear to be a friend.
This week, Southwark Police wrote on Twitter: “We have seen a surge in WhatsApp accounts being hacked, if you are sent a text from WhatsApp with a code on it, don’t share the code with ANYONE no matter who’s asking, or the reason why.”
We have seen a surge in WhatsApp accounts being hacked, if you are sent a text from WhatsApp with a code on it, don’t share the code with ANYONE no matter who’s asking, or the reason why.
— Southwark Police | Central South BCU (@MPSSouthwark) June 28, 2021
What should you look out for?
You may be a target of the scam if you receive an text message with a six-digit WhatsApp code that you were not expecting.
Usually you would need this code when setting up a new account, or logging in to your existing account on a new device.
However, if you have not initiated this request, it could be a scammer trying to log in to your account.
In the next step, the scammer sends you a WhatsApp message asking for the six-digit code.
It appears to come from a genuine friend because that account has already been hijacked.
What do the scammers do with stolen accounts?
With a stolen account, the hijacker can message your friends and family, and pretend to be you.
They may pretend you’re having a crisis and ask your contacts for money.
It also gives them your contacts’ phone numbers so they can try the six-digit code trick with new victims.
By hijacking your account, the scammer will also remain in your group chats, where they could see sensitive information.
How can you protect yourself?
In a statement, WhatsApp said: “The safety and security of our users and their messages are really important to us.
“However, just like regular SMS or phone calls, it’s possible for other WhatsApp users who have your phone number to contact you.”
It said users should:
- never give a password or SMS security code to anybody – not even friends or family
- enable two-step verification for an extra layer of protection
- be vigilant if you receive a message asking you for money. If in doubt, call your friend or family member to check
Have you had one of the scam texts? Let us know in the comments.