With more than 2 billion users currently, WhatsApp is a hugely popular platform in many parts of the world. But it’s not just users who utilize this app to stay in touch. A large number of fraudsters visit it to cheat people. As a result, WhatsApp scams and cases of identity theft and voicemail hacking are on the rise.
What is WhatsApp Scam?
Like most cyber scams, WhatsApp scams involve a largely sophisticated process where users unwittingly end up sharing confidential information. Fraudsters are mostly interested in obtaining personal information so that they can impersonate users and gain access to their funds. Given that one billion users are on WhatsApp today, the platform becomes all the more attractive to these scammers.
In other cases, they use spyware to gain full control of the phone. This is done by using a fake WhatsApp verification code that is often difficult to detect and trace back.
In the last year, WhatsApp scams have increased by 2000%. This alarming trend prompts experts to demand better from WhatsApp and to take adequate steps to protect data.
Different types of scams run on the app
A big challenge with WhatsApp scams is that there aren’t just one or two types of scams that need to be addressed to fix the problem. Over the past few years, various types of WhatsApp scams have become the norm. From hackers hunting for bank account details to criminals posing as friends and family and asking users to transfer money, it has become quite sophisticated.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common WhatsApp scams.
1. Whatsapp business account scam
In several cases, fraudsters have created fake business accounts to defraud users. They look a lot like verified business accounts, making it even harder for users to detect. As a business owner, you should keep a close eye on scammers impersonating your business and report such accounts. It’s worth noting that a business account with a gray question mark means it hasn’t been verified by WhatsApp.
2. Wrong Number Whatsapp Scam
Most WhatsApp scammers are very advanced in using technology to scam people. Take wrong number fraud, for example. Using automated chatbots, scammers connect with potential victims, engaging them in conversation only to rip them off. The process is quite straightforward. The scammer will contact a potential victim who will assume it is a random wrong number. Once a conversation is initiated, the scammer will create a highly sophisticated strategy to gain access to personal details.
3. Verification tricks
Verification fraud is another common way to hack into a WhatsApp account. The victim receives two messages almost simultaneously. A message is usually an apology from a friend or family member saying they accidentally sent a verification code to the victim’s account. They then ask for the code. Once the code is shared, the hacker takes full control of the victim’s WhatsApp account.
4. Impersonation/Mom & Dad scams
The easiest way to trick people is by pretending to be a friend or family member. The mum and dad scam has been around for a few years now. It has found its way to WhatsApp where a fraudster pretending to be a family member scams the victim. In the case of this scam, the victim receives a message from a close family member claiming to have lost their phone. They then ask the victim to share bank account details.
5. WhatsApp Hijacking
Cyber-hijackers are good at gaining full access to victims’ phones. Some of them do this so well that it takes at least a couple of hours if not days before the victim realizes what has happened. They trick victims into installing spyware that exposes confidential information such as usernames, passwords and more.
6. Voicemail hacking
Another common scam is voicemail hacking, which allows fraudsters to break into a victim’s voicemail and gain access to WhatsApp. Fraudsters download WhatsApp and choose the option to claim they never received a verification code over the phone. Knowing that WhatsApp calls users when they select this option, they hack the voicemail to change the pin and access the victim’s account.
7. Compromised app
In recent years, several reports have surfaced suggesting that there is malware hidden within WhatsApp. Once the compromised apps are downloaded, users receive multiple spam messages and links to download suspicious pages.
8. Malicious links
A simple scam that has been around for years now, scammers send external links to victims to gain access to their accounts. Most scammers dupe users by promising them quick rewards for clicking on the links. When they do, users are redirected to an external website where they are asked to share personal information in order to receive a prize. Fraudsters usually use this information to defraud the victim or sell it to others
9. Whatsapp crypto scam
Ripping off victims by telling them about a lucrative scheme is a classic way to trick them. In most cases, scammers first befriend the victim. Once they have established a good relationship, they tell them about a crypto scheme. If they succeed in catching the victim, they will ask them to transfer money to a cryptocurrency trading website. And that’s the last time the victim can see their money.
10. Complete the survey
Completing an online survey that promises rewards is tempting for many users. Realizing this, many scammers send spyware links under the guise of surveys to unsuspecting victims. These fair surveys prompt victims to share confidential information which is then used to impersonate them.
How WhatsApp users can protect themselves from these scams
While it is true that WhatsApp scams are on the rise, all is not lost for WhatsApp users. Understanding the psyche of a WhatsApp scammer is a great way to protect your account and data. What they’re really after is your information, so make sure your account details aren’t easily accessible. Whenever you receive a suspicious or unknown message, make sure you block the contact. Be careful about clicking on links even if it looks like you received them from someone you know. Most importantly, do not act in haste even if the unknown contact sounds familiar.
Tips for Spotting a Whatsapp Scam Message
Here are some simple tips to spot a WhatsApp scam message.
- Check the tone of the message: An easy way to determine the legitimacy of a message is to check the method of communication. In most cases, scammers try to create a sense of urgency to get the user to act in a hurry.
- Messages from an unknown number: Unless the scammer has hijacked an account, they will send messages from unknown numbers.
- Requirements for urgent payment: Scammers will usually ask you to send money instantly via sites like PayPal that don’t require any bank details.
- Grammatical errors: Most scammers write messages with spelling mistakes.
- No possibility to call back: Another common feature is that the unknown number contacting you is generally unavailable. In other words, you will not be able to call back.
How to Avoid and Stop Whatsapp Scams Completely
With other users falling victim to these scams all the time, becoming a target for these hackers is a real concern. That said, preventing WhatsApp scams is not impossible. Here are some ways to avoid WhatsApp scams altogether.
- Set up two-factor authentication: This gives your account an extra layer of security and makes it harder for fraudsters to target your account.
- Add a pin to your voicemail: This will prevent the scammer from accessing WhatsApp verification codes from your voicemail.
- Confirm with family and friends: If you receive a message or call from family or friends asking for money, call them and confirm before transferring anything.
- Avoid clicking on links: No matter how tempting the language, don’t click on external links.
- Analyze the language of messages: When you receive a message from a contact or an unknown number, take some time to evaluate the language. Would your friend really want to write like that? Do you find any spelling mistakes?
Reporting Whatsapp Scam Messages
If you suspect a suspicious message, you can report it directly to WhatsApp.
On your Android phone, open WhatsApp, click on More options, go to Settings – Help – Contact us and report the message.
On iOS, open WhatsApp and click Settings – Help – Contact Us.
Terminate your Whatsapp account if you have been scammed
If you are the victim of a scam, you may consider closing your account to avoid similar scams in the future. But first, you might want to understand what made you vulnerable to scammers.
Why are you getting random Whatsapp messages?
Everyone receives random messages on social media. So it’s not out of the blue. In most cases, you may receive spam that is different from scam messages.
Why are catfish using WhatsApp?
For rock fishing, WhatsApp has become a popular platform because it is used by billions of people worldwide. Also, its ease of use means fraudsters have a better chance of catching an unsuspecting victim.
Can you control who sends you WhatsApp messages?
You can limit the number of people who contact you on WhatsApp. To do that, you need to go to the WhatsApp settings, privacy option and select “My contacts” or None. This will prevent unknown contacts from reaching you.
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