With more than 2 billion users at present, WhatsApp is a massively popular platform in many parts of the world. But it’s not just users who are leveraging this app to stay connected. A large number of scammers are frequenting it to cheat people. As a result, WhatsApp scams and instances of identity theft and voicemail hacking are on the rise.
What is WhatsApp Fraud?
Like most cyber frauds, WhatsApp scams involve a largely sophisticated process where users unwittingly end up sharing confidential information. Scammers are mostly interested in harvesting personal information so they can impersonate users and access their money. Given that a billion users are on WhatsApp today, the platform becomes all the more attractive to these scam artists.
In other cases, they use spyware to gain complete control over the phone. This is done using a fake WhatsApp verification code that’s often difficult to detect and trace back.
In the last year, WhatsApp scams have gone up by 2,000%. This alarming trend is prompting experts to demand better from WhatsApp and to take adequate steps to protect data.
- READ MORE: WhatsApp Has New Privact Features
Different Types of Scams That are Being Run on the App
A major challenge with WhatsApp scams is there’s not just one or two types of fraud that need to be addressed to fix the problem. In the last few years, various types of WhatsApp scams have become the norm. From hackers poaching for bank account details to criminals impersonating friends and family asking users to transfer money, it’s become rather sophisticated.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common WhatsApp scams.
1. Whatsapp Business Account Scams
In several cases, scammers have been setting up fake business accounts to defraud users. They closely resemble 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 grey question mark denotes it hasn’t been verified by WhatsApp.
2. Whatsapp Wrong Number Scams
Most WhatsApp scammers are highly advanced in using technology to defraud people. Take the wrong number scams for example. Using automated chatbots, scammers get in touch with potential victims, engaging them in conversations only to rip them off. The process is fairly straightforward. The scammer will contact a potential victim who will presume it’s 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 Trick
The verification scam is another common way of hacking into a WhatsApp account. The victim receives two messages almost at the same time. One message is typically an apology from a friend or family member who says 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 complete control of the victim’s WhatsApp account.
4. Impersonation/The Mom & Dad Scam
The easiest way to scam people is by impersonating a friend or family. The Mom and Dad scam has been around for some years now. It has found its way into WhatsApp where a scammer pretending to be a family member defrauds the victim. In the case of this scam, the victim receives a message from a close family member who claims to have lost their phone. They then ask the victim to share bank account details.
5. WhatsApp Hijacking
Cyber hijackers are adept at gaining complete access to their victim’s phones. Some of them do this so well, it takes at least a couple of hours if not days for the victim to realize what has happened. They get the victims to install spyware that reveals confidential information such as usernames, passwords and more.
6. Voicemail Hacking
Another common scam is voicemail hacking, which lets the scammers break into a victim’s voicemail and find access to their WhatsApp. Scammers download WhatsApp and select the option to claim they never received a verification code via phone. Since they are aware WhatsApp calls users when they select this option, they hack the voicemail to change the pin and gain access to the victim’s account.
7. Compromised App
In recent years, several reports have emerged to suggest the existence of malware hidden in WhatsApp. Once the compromised apps are downloaded, users receive several spam messages and links to download suspicious pages.
8. Malicious Links
A simple scam method that has been around for many years now, scammers send external links to the victims to access their accounts. Most scammers dupe users by promising them quick rewards by clicking the links. Once they do so, users are redirected to an external site where they are asked to share personal information in order to receive a prize. Scammers usually use this information to defraud the victim or sell it off to other
9. Whatsapp crypto scam
Ripping victims off by telling them about a lucrative scheme is a classic way of scamming them. In most cases, scammers first befriend the victim. Once they establish a good rapport, they tell them about a crypto scheme. If they are successful in trapping the victim, they will ask them to transfer money to a cryptocurrency trading site. And that’s the last time, the victim will be able to see their money.
10. Complete the Survey
Completing an online survey promising rewards is tempting for many users. Realizing this, many scammers are sending spyware links in the guise of surveys to unsuspecting victims. These straightforward-looking surveys get victims to share confidential information that is then used to impersonate them.
How WhatsApp Users Can Protect Themselves from these Scams
While it’s true WhatsApp scams are increasing steadily, not all is lost for WhatsApp users. Understanding the psyche of a WhatsApp scammer is a great way to protect your account and data. What they are really after is your information, so make sure your account details are not easily accessible. Any time you receive a suspicious or unknown message, make sure you block the contact. Be wary of clicking on any links even if it looks like you received them from someone you know. Most importantly, don’t 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: One simple way to ascertain a message’s legitimacy is to check the communication method. In most cases, scammers try to create a sense of urgency to prompt the user to act in haste.
- Messages from an unknown number: Unless the scammer has hijacked an account, they will send messages from unknown numbers.
- Demands for urgent payment: Scammers will typically ask you to send money promptly via sites such as PayPal that do not require any bank details.
- Grammatical mistakes: Most scammers compose messages with spelling mistakes.
- No option to call back: Another common trait is the unknown number that contacts you is generally inaccessible. In other words, you will not be able to call back.
How to Avoid and Stop Whatsapp Scams Altogether
With other users falling prey to these scams all the time, it’s a real concern to become a target of these hackers. That being 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 additional layer of security and makes it harder for scammers 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 your family or friends asking for money, make sure you call them and confirm before transferring anything.
- Avoid clicking on links: No matter how tempting the language is, do not click on external links.
- Analyze the language of messages: When you receive a message from a contact or an unknown number, spend some time evaluating the language. Will your friend really write like that? Do you find any spelling errors?
Reporting Whatsapp Scam Messages
If you are suspecting a suspicious message, you can report it to WhatsApp directly.
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 on Settings – Help – Contact us.
Closing Down your Whatsapp Account if You’ve Been Scammed
If you fall victim to a scam, you may consider closing your account to avoid similar scams in the future. But first, you may 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 nothing out of the blue. In most cases, you might be receiving spam that is different than scam messages.
Why do catfish use WhatsApp?
For catfishing, WhatsApp has become a popular platform because it’s used by billions of people all over the world. Moreover, its ease of use means scammers have a greater chance of trapping an unsuspecting victim.
Can you control who sends you WhatsApp Messages?
You can limit the number of people contacting you on WhatsApp. To do so, you need to go to your WhatsApp settings, Privacy option and choose “My contacts” or Nobody. This will prevent unknown contacts from reaching out to you.
Image: Envato Elements