WhatsApp is a popular text and voice messaging app that uses your phone’s cell or WiFi connection. Launched in 2009, WhatsApp now boasts approximately 2 billion monthly active users. Users can place international and domestic calls and send documents, photos, and videos without fees or subscriptions. Unfortunately, its growth and popularity have resulted in various WhatsApp scams perpetrated by thieves after your money and information.
In 2014, Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion. Since users can log onto WhatsApp on almost any device, it has continued to enjoy global appeal, bringing with it some dangers.
As one of the world’s leading mobile messaging services, WhatsApp has unfortunately attracted scammers looking to make some quick cash off unsuspecting users. These are the most common WhatsApp scams:
One of the latest scams to hit WhatsApp offers a chance to win a case of Heineken beer.
In this scam, you’ll receive a text on your cell phone as well as a message on WhatsApp that appears to be from a friend in your contact list. The friend asks you to share the code you received via text. Once you share the code, the “friend”—who’s actually a scammer—will hack your WhatsApp account and leave you unable to log in.
A scammer impersonating one of your WhatsApp friends will contact you with an urgent request for money, possibly due to an emergency. Since you believe you’re communicating with someone you know, you may fall for the scam and send the money, which lands in the hands of an opportunistic scammer.
You receive a message from a user stating that WhatsApp will start charging users a fee to continue using the service, such as $10 a year. The message will warn that you’ll need to forward this message to other users if you want to avoid paying for the service. The scam message might include a link to a customer portal where you’ll be asked to enter your bank or credit card information. (Note that WhatsApp is a free app that has no plans to charge its users.)
Scammers posing as online delivery companies send a message on WhatsApp claiming that a package needs to be delivered to the user’s address. If you click on the link in the message, you’ll be taken to a website that asks for a small payment in exchange for the release of the package. Entering your financial information puts you at risk of losing the required payment and exposes you to identity fraud.
Scammers purchase lists of phone numbers to target sending false news and information involving political elections and the pandemic. If you receive a WhatsApp message containing this kind of information, the message might instruct you to forward it to other users.
You receive an email stating that you have a voice message on WhatsApp. Since WhatsApp voice messages are delivered through the app itself, this is also a scam. The email instructs you to click on a button to listen to the message. If you click on the button, you’ll be led to a fake website that will install malware on your device.
You’ll receive a link from someone you don’t know inviting you to chat. The link may lead to a legitimate-looking website, such as Facebook, but is actually an impostor website designed to take your personal information. The link may also lead to a fake WhatsApp messenger app that could install harmful malware on your device.
In this scam, you may receive a message with a link claiming that you have won a voucher or gift card from a retailer. Clicking on the link and entering your information could expose you to identity and financial theft. A scammer could also install cookies on your device that track your browsing activity.
Scammers send out emails to users touting an upgraded version of the app known as WhatsApp Gold. After explaining the host of enhanced features, the message invites users to sign up via the link provided. The link, however, leads to a fake website that may install malware on your device.
WhatsApp can be a convenient way to exchange messages and enjoy international calls, as long as you keep specific safety tips in mind. To beat WhatsApp scams, make sure to follow these tips:
If you fall victim to any WhatsApp scams, here’s what you need to do next.
You can report scams directly to WhatsApp. When you report a user, WhatsApp will receive the most recent messages sent by that user. If you believe a friend’s account has been hacked, make sure to state that clearly when you send the report.
If you sent money to a scammer, contact your financial institution, credit card company, or third-party payment service immediately. Although they may not be able to reverse the transfer, they may investigate the fraud claim on your behalf.
As the victim of a WhatsApp scam, take steps to secure your account. You can enable two-step verification, which means you’ll have the option to enter your email address. Then WhatsApp will email you a reset link if you forget your PIN.
Another way to protect your account is to restrict access to your profile photo to your contact only. To do this, tap Settings > Account > Privacy > Profile photo and select “My Contacts.”
If you clicked on any suspicious links, install or run antivirus software to get rid of any malware that may have been installed on your device.
If you believe someone else has gained access to your account, sign in to the app using your phone number. You’ll be asked to enter a six-digit code sent to your phone. Once you enter that code, the person using your account should automatically be logged out. You might also be asked to enter a two-step verification code.
You can report Whatsapp scams to the authorities, including the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the FBI, and your local authorities.
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