Another victim Valerie (real name), lost €2,000 to a similar WhatsApp fraudulent scheme. The scammer posed as her son, a businessman who had previously asked for money from her.
But impersonation isn’t the only WhatsApp scam you might be exposed to. There are many common online scams duping innocent people of their hard-earned money or their personal information, which later gets sold on the dark web.
And unfortunately, there isn’t any tool to protect you from these internet threats. Some antivirus software may help by giving a warning when you visit malicious links, but there is none that prevents you from paying the scammers yourself.
Therefore, information is the only weapon we have.
Further sections discuss a few WhatsApp scams and if there is anything you should do about them other than blocking the unknown number.
The thing about WhatsApp is you can text anyone, even if you don’t have the person in your contact list. Perpetrators use this (loophole) to bulk messages and pick the ones who seem vulnerable on countless rounds of social engineering.
The end goal is to dig out personal information such as credit card numbers and national ID numbers or simply get a rogue app installed, giving a permanent backdoor to the criminals.
Let’s see the common types of such scams and their modus operandi.
As already stated, this is where you get a random WhatsApp message pretending to be “someone you know”; basically, it is a form of pre-texting.
And unfortunately, it seems (by The Guardian reported scams) the scammers had some sort of background information. Or they were just plain lucky in dropping their scam bombs over someone with a history of similar legitimate transactions.
To avoid such misfortune, we should treat WhatsApp messages from strangers as red flags by default. In that case, one should try other forms of communication (ex., social media) to confirm the identity before proceeding with the alleged request.
Until Apple allows sideloading, this particular category belongs to Android users.
Here, the victims are persuaded to install dangerous apks (Android file format) under the disguise of an update issued from official WhatsApp accounts (with the exact same logo) belonging to the leading financial institutions.
Once installed, your smartphone becomes an open treasure. Depending on the application, everything starting from the contacts, call logs, messages, etc., to whatever you do, can be remotely recorded. The exposed information may also include passwords or sensitive information accessed via your smartphone.
Verification Code Scam
Do you remember how you set up your WhatsApp account?
One enters their number, and it automatically reads the verification code sent via SMS. However, if you’re setting the account on a different device than the one hosting the sim card, you have to enter it yourself.
During a verification code WhatsApp scam, a fraudster may contact you via SMS, WhatsApp, or a voice call., asking for the code “accidentally sent” to your number.
An unknowing person may share it with the bad guy (who can also pretend to be customer support), giving access to all WhatsApp communication history; or at least a legitimate WhatsApp account that can further be used to defraud your contacts with impersonation scams.
It is important to note that scams are not restricted to only your WhatsApp account; your other social accounts, too, can be targeted and hacked. This is why trusted online identity threat protection solutions are very important.
You know, scammers can act like REAL employers (for a few days).
This makes it more tricky than an outright request asking you for money. In this case, you can be offered a job, often as simple as liking, following, etc., a few random social media “celebrity” accounts. Subsequently, they pay you in real.
Next comes the scam part. They can ask you to pay them some amount to “unlock” further high-paying tasks. And since you already got paid, there is little left to suspicion.
While you can play along till they throw you their “prepaid tasks”, I suggest steering clear.
Criminals generally don’t have any ethical code to follow and can go to lengths that can be a traumatic experience for others.
And please be informed that reputed companies don’t chase unknown candidates like this. The best you can get is an incoming social media request for scheduling an online or onsite interview which may translate to a job.
But if the offer seems unavoidably tempting, ask them to connect on social media. See who’s the real face behind the message, check out the company profile on different social channels, and finally, never pay to get paid.
If people have lost their life savings to any scams, it’s this, not just on WhatsApp, but on most channels of remote communication.
It’s a global problem where innocent people (mostly elderly or in their mid-40s-50s) are honey trapped in fake online love and emotionally blackmailed into ponzi investment schemes.
The scam starts with an accidentally landed random message. You say it’s a wrong number, they apologize, and what follows is an attempt to spark a perfectly normal conversation.
Things quickly transcend beyond the ordinary, and you feel the unique emotional connection which then translates into pure “bliss.”
In another version of a similar romance scam, you meet someone on a dating app. Things escalate, and the scammer suggests moving on to WhatsApp for a more personal conversation.
Finally, you accept everything is not fake, and sometimes good people meet randomly (even via WhatsApp) and let your guard down.
This is the exact point that your “significant other” introduces to their high-performing investment portfolio and asks to invest likewise. Or, they can pretend to be military personnel in a war-torn country desperately in need of money, which only you can provide.
You can read about one such WhatsApp scam from a Redditor here.
You may ask, why do people fall for it? It’s because this specific scam is generally well planned, and the bad actors take their time (sometimes months) before laying the final trap. This makes it extremely tough for the victim to say NO, even when they sense something is up. Investment scams are often the most common cryptocurrency scams.
My advice? In these times of remote jobs and supposed globalization, let’s keep the emotional affairs “on-site.”
Heard about WhatsApp Gold, or WhatsApp Pink, or Plus…
WhatsApp users often get these messages about it being upgraded to another version. The message may entail a link to download the update or can directly send the apk.
It first surfaced online in 2016 with the message:
"Hey Finally Secret WhatsApp golden version has been leaked. This version is used only by big celebrities. Now we can use it too." Click this Link to download.
WhatsApp later clarified that there is no such update and it’s indeed a scam to lure people into downloading malware on their devices.
In any case, one should avoid such “updates” altogether and look at the official WhatsApp website for any information.
Lottery scams offer huge amounts of money to the “winner” (you). This malicious process leverages the reputation of well-known companies by using their name or logo, making it easier for a user to trust the sender.
Next, the user is asked to follow the given link, which takes to a legitimate-looking website.
This is followed by a form asking for sensitive personal information like national ID or credit card numbers. Besides, some of these scams try to persuade the to-be victims to pay some registration amount or taxes to claim the “jackpot.”
Needless to say, there would be no lottery, and the victim is simply robbed of the paid amount.
On the other hand, charity scams invoke the “human” inside you by asking for a donation. Such messages can show fake images or text about the “good cause” and give links to donate as little as $10.
However, the linked websites may not be real ones and may steal your financial information via fraudulent payment channels. Here, the idea is to research the charity organization and make the donation at the right place.
There can be more!
Unfortunately, this WhatsApp scam list isn’t exhaustive, as these scams evolve and only use the messaging platform as their medium of propagation.
And while WhatsApp messages aren’t dangerous on their own, one should act wisely after getting these messages from strangers. These scammers can look and sound convincing and might as well use fear to get what they desire out of innocent people. However, the only weapons an average user has are vigilance and awareness, as there is no anti-virus software for this.
There are scores of Redditors who paste screenshots trolling these scammers to teach them a lesson. Still, the best I would advise is just blocking them and circulating the screenshots in your contacts to spread awareness.
Never let your guard down, and trust your instincts.
Hitesh works as a senior writer at Geekflare and dabbles in cybersecurity, productivity, games, and marketing. Besides, he holds master’s in transportation engineering. His free time is mostly about playing with his son, reading, or lying… read more
Joy R Bhamre
Joy R Bhamre is a Google certified Digital Marketing Specialist, Content Writer & Editor as well as a Cambridge-certified English Language Trainer with over 14 years of corporate experience.
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