The scam sees fraudsters send messages that appear to come from a friend or family member asking for personal information, money or your pin number – but these aren’t actually from a loved one
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WhatsApp users have been warned to watch out for “friend in need” scams where crooks pretend to be someone you know to steal your money.
The scam sees fraudsters send messages that appear to come from a friend or family member asking for personal information, money or your pin number.
But these messages aren’t actually from a loved one.
Instead, they’re typically sent from hacked accounts of your friends, so they look as if they’re coming from someone you know.
They can also come from an unknown number claiming to be a friend who has lost their phone or been “locked out” of their account.
Have you received this message? Get in touch: email@example.com
Message scams could include text messages as well as those received on WhatsApp.
WhatsApp has now partnered with National Trading Standards to raise awareness of this type of fraud.
It comes as worrying research shows more than half (59%) of people have received a message-based scam in the last year or know someone who has.
The “Stop. Think. Call.” drive aims to help educate people on how to protect themselves and their WhatsApp account from message-based scams.
The campaign urges people to:
- Stop: Take time before you respond. Make sure your WhatsApp two-step verification is switched on to protect your account, that you are happy with your privacy settings.
- Think: Does this request make sense? Are they asking for money? Remember that scammers prey on people’s kindness, trust and willingness to help.
- Call: Verify that it really is your friend or family member by calling them directly, or asking them to share a voice note. Only when you are 100% sure the request is from someone you know and trust, should you consider it. If it turns out to be untrue, report it to Action Fraud.
Louise Baxter, head of the National Trading Standards scams team and Friends Against Scams, said reports of “friend-in-need” scams have been growing in recent months.
She said: “These kinds of scams are particularly cruel as they prey on our kindness and desire to help friends and family.”
Kathryn Harnett, policy manager at WhatsApp, said: “WhatsApp protects our users’ personal messages with end-to-end encryption, but we want to remind people that we all have a role to play in keeping our accounts safe by remaining vigilant to the threat of scammers.
“We advise all users never to share their six-digit pin code with others, not even friends or family, and recommend that all users set up two-step verification for added security.
“If you receive a suspicious message (even if you think you know who it is from), calling or requesting a voice note is the fastest and simplest way to check someone is who they say they are. A friend in need is a friend worth calling.”
Citizens Advice Scams Action is also supporting the campaign, having seen an increase in messaging scams over the past year, including friend-in-need scams such as:
- A scammer who claimed they were a friend stuck abroad and had to find hundreds of pounds to get home. When the person said they were unable to help they were blocked.
- A parent who realised that a scammer was posing as their son asking for money via WhatsApp. They called their son to check and realised it was a scam.
- A parent who received a WhatsApp message supposedly from their daughter saying they had had to change their number. It went on to ask for help paying a bill but the parent realised it was a scam.
What to do next if you’ve been scammed
If you believe you have been scammed, you should contact your bank straight away and change any passwords that may have been compromised.
You should also contact Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040.
You can also now call a new number – 159 – which aims to be a “999 for fraud”.
Suspicious text messages should be forwarded to Action Fraud for free on 7726.
Or if you live in Scotland, contact Police Scotland.