Image by Rachit Tank

WhatsApp Safety Tips

Following a rise in WhatsApp users being targeted by scammers, we have pulled together some top tips and information. 

As of February 2020, WhatsApp had over 2 billion users worldwide. And as a result, WhatsApp has become an irresistible platform for scammers to target. With tactics used becoming more and more ingenious and effective, it’s needless to say, it’s important to recognise how to spot WhatsApp scams and how to prevent becoming a target in the first place. 

Let’s start with a few examples. 

The Family/Friend Emergency;

This is the most common scam, and it’s easy to avoid. It starts with a relative or friend sending you a message from an unknown number. They will often start by telling you they have broken their phone, and now have a temporary number. They will likely continue by asking you to delete the old number from your phone.

 

Once this is done, they will tell you that they need money. The reasons vary such as no money to pay bills after buying a new phone, convincing you to pay for expensive medical treatment, or maybe even money for a gift. They will often ask you to send this money to a different bank account to the one you might normally use. Unfortunately once sent, the money is unrecoverable. 

The Free Gift Voucher;

These scams are much like traditional phishing scams. You will most likely receive a link from an unknown number, but these can occasionally come from someone you know.

 

When clicking the link, it will take you to a website that looks remarkably like the real one, and often you’ll be unable to tell the difference. You’ll most likely be asked to login to your email account, or to fill in personal details or payment information. 

Account Hijacking;

You will receive a message from an unknown number, saying they sent you a 6 digit code by mistake. The 6 digit code is needed by the scammer to transfer your WhatsApp account to their device.  

Once they have done this, they will be able to access all of your chats, pictures, voice messages and more.

 

When they are in, they will use your account to target people you communicate with such as friends and relatives. They will often send messages marked as urgent asking for money to be transferred due to an emergency situation. This is very similar to the first scam, except this time it’s coming from the compromised WhatsApp account so it looks legitimate.  

What can I do to stop myself becoming a victim? 

WhatsApp fraud can be difficult to spot, but there are a few things that should set alarm bells ringing when dealing with scammers. 

You will often find that; 

  1. The scammer is in a rush, everything is urgent and must be done now. 

  2. The scammer won’t want to accept a phone call and will insist everything is done through WhatsApp. 

  3. They will request payments be sent to an unknown account. 

  4. The messages will often be written in poor English. 

 

There are a few steps you can take to confirm if the person messaging you is genuine; 

  1. Pause for a moment, consider the language of the messages you are receiving. Is it the same as you would normally expect? Are there spelling mistakes where there usually wouldn’t be? 

  2. Check the number – is it correct? If the messages are coming from an unknown number, it’s unlikely to be who you think it is. 

  3. If you are suspicious, ask a question only your friend or relative would know the answer to. 

  4. Try to call the number, if it’s a fraudster, they will likely not pick up or they will quickly be exposed. 

  5. If they don’t pick up, try the “old” number and try to speak directly to the person in question. 

  6. Most importantly, NEVER act until you are certain. 

 

Remember, these tips are not only important to protect yourself, but your contacts who could also be scammed if your account becomes compromised. 

WhatsApp Safety Settings 

WhatsApp has a number of really important safety features built in. These can help prevent you from becoming a victim. 

  1. Enable 2FA (two factor authentication) – This prevents your account being moved to a different device without a security code first being entered. 

  2. Block unrecognised numbers and report accounts that are suspicious. 

  3. Stop WhatsApp backing up your chats/media so these can’t be moved to a new device unless you choose to do so. 

  4. Restrict privacy settings to my contacts only and limit the information that can be seen by anyone. 

 

What if I become a victim of a WhatsApp Scam? 

Being a victim is unsettling, however, try to remain calm. If you have realised shortly after you have sent money to a scammer, contact your bank or payment provider immediately. Whatever the scenario, they may be able to help. Even if they can’t reverse the payment, they will still investigate the fraud claim. 

Most importantly, it is essential you report this to action fraud as soon as you can. Here are some important contact details; 

Action Fraud 0300 123 2040 or online

Report SMS scams by forwarding the original message to 7726 (spells SPAM on the keypad).