Cybersecurity experts have warned millions of WhatsApp users to be alert, as fraudsters frequently target users on the popular messaging service. There are a number of different ways in which these criminals can target you, and in some cases, people have been conned out of thousands of pounds. As these scammers use increasingly sophisticated tactics, Cybersecurity experts from VPN Overview have described the various methods they employ to target online users, how to recognise WhatsApp scams and how to prevent them.
“Friend In Need” scams
These are one of the most common scams out there, and as the name suggests, this WhatsApp fraud involves cybercriminals pretending to be someone you know.
The conmen (or women) would pose as friends or family members facing an urgent financial emergency, because of which victims could lose thousands of pounds.
They often use familiar profile pictures and information from social media to deceive victims and then explain that they’re messaging from a different number than usual because their phone has been lost or damaged.
What is WhatsApp hijacking?
While these scams are common, more sophisticated cybercriminals are even breaking into people’s WhatsApp accounts, and then use that account to commit fraudulent activities.
Gaining unauthorised access to your WhatsApp account would make the scams even more convincing as victims are conned into thinking that the message is coming from a known contact This is how they do it:
- The fraudster obtains the phone number of the first victim.
- The cybercriminal (re)installs WhatsApp on their phone or another device.
- The criminal contacts the victim, impersonating an acquaintance of the victim.
- The WhatsApp fraudster lies to the victim, saying that they have accidentally sent their verification code to the victim.
- The cybercriminal tricks the victim into giving them the verification code, which they then type into their own phone thus gaining access to the victim’s WhatsApp account and all the victim’s contacts.
How to spot a WhatsApp scam?
Scammers often create a sense of urgency, pressuring you to pay quickly. So if they contact you through an unknown number and then soon after talk about money- be suspicious.
These criminals often use poor English in their messages and do not want to be called. Scammers will also ask for money to be transferred to an unknown account or use an app that hides account numbers.
Woman conned out of money through Whatsapp messages
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Tips to prevent WhatsApp fraud
If someone asks you for money, check if their number is correct. You should also check the language and communication style of the message.
Calling the person or contacting them through a different method could help you quickly verify their story.
Do not let the fraudster pressure you; think logically. Ask them a question only your friend or family would know the answer to if suspicious.
VPN overview also advised that users should secure their voicemail with a personal code, and never send someone a verification code without questioning. Setting up “2-Factor Authentication” on WhatsApp will also ensure your account is more secure.
What to do if you’ve been a victim of WhatsApp fraud?
If you have been scammed, it is important to remain calm and report the incident to your bank and the police. You may be able to reverse the payment depending on the circumstance, but you would need to act quickly.
Wire transfers are harder to recover, and online payment services or apps can complicate the process. Even if a refund is not issued, the bank will investigate the fraud claim to protect customers and prevent future fraud.
Reporting scams to WhatsApp and AnyScam is also recommended, and national help groups for victims of fraud can assist individuals in dealing with the process and preventing future fraud.
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