by Katie Binns
Here is everything you need to know to avoid becoming victim to a WhatsApp scam.
1. IMPERSONATION FRAUD
This is where scammers use WhatsApp to impersonate family members or friends in difficulty and in particular need of money. This type of scam has evolved from fraudsters impersonating a bank, police or HMRC.
It starts with a message from an unknown number, claiming to be a loved one who has just lost their phone and got a replacement. It gives them a reason for having a different number, and means they can just use a generic term like ‘Mum’, ‘Dad’, ‘Sis’ or ‘Bro’.
The story they tell varies, but centres on the a claim that because they have a new phone they don’t have access to their internet or mobile banking app and therefore need urgent help to pay a bill. Any attempts to call to verify their identity is often fobbed off with talk that there is a problem with the microphone.
Victims then transfer money to an account thinking they are really helping out their loved one. On average victims lose £1,950 this way.
2. SIX-DIGIT WHATSAPP CODE YOU WERE NOT EXPECTING
If you receive a text message with a six-digit WhatsApp code that you were not expecting, you may be a target of the scam.
It’s the kind of code you would need if you were setting up a new account, or logging in to your existing account on a new device.
If you have not initiated this request, you should see this message as a red flag. It could be a fraudster trying to log in to your account.
In the next step of the scam, you receive a WhatsApp message from a friend asking for the six-digit code. Horrible truth: it appears to come from a genuine friend because your account has already been hijacked.
If you don’t spot it is a scam you will end up sending the access code for your own account to the scammer. The hijacker can go on to message your friends, family and contacts, and pretend to be you. They can access your group chats where they can see private information. They can try the six-digit code trick with new victims. They may even pretend you’re having a crisis and ask your contacts for money.
3. SUPERMARKET WHATSAPP SCAMS
Scammers send out fake Tesco, Asda and Marks & Spencer vouchers on WhatsApp. The messages look like they have been sent by a thoughtful friend and designed to trick you into clicking on the link to claim the voucher.
One such example is: “Hi, ASDA is giving away £250 Free Voucher to celebrate 68th anniversary, go here to get it. Enjoy and thanks me later !”
But the supermarket isn’t giving out any £250 vouchers at all. There are two classic signs that this is a scam: the spelling and grammar mistakes and, if you type in the URL mentioned in the offer, you will see that the page does not exist on Asda.
HOW CAN YOU PROTECT YOURSELF FROM WHATSAPP SCAMS?
- Never hand over your security codes, a password or a pin to anyone – not even friends or family
- Beware of messages asking for money. Call your friend or family to check if in any doubt. If you can’t speak to them ask them something personal like what their middle name is or what they call their dog. If you don’t independently verify the person’s identity before making a payment you may not be due a refund under the Contingent Reimbursement Model Code.
- Set up the two-step verification option for extra security
- Read WhatsApp’s guide on its website for further reassurance.