How to spot WhatsApp scams!

By Ria Manzanero

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May 9, 2022

How to spot WhatsApp scams!

It seems that an increasing number of people are being targeted by WhatsApp scams. Many assume that popular apps of this kind are perfectly safe. Don’t be fooled! WhatsApp is quickly becoming a fruitful hunting ground for cyber-criminals.

Whilst significant emphasis has been placed on awareness and training to identify threats via email, with over two billion users, WhatsApp is an attractive channel for cyber-criminals to pursue as users’ guards are more likely to be down.

In fact, we’ve experienced over 2000% more WhatsApp scams over the last 12 months than ever before, according to Lloyds Bank research, with the average victim losing around £1,950.

However, this personal and invasive method of cyber crime can be avoided. There are a few ways you can avoid becoming a victim of WhatsApp scams and we’re here to share them!

How do WhatsApp scams work?

WhatsApp scams may feel more of a violation than email scams, as they’re targeting victims via a trusted platform used daily. But this gives us more of an opportunity to spot them!

WhatsApp Scamming Techniques

In most instances the perpetrator will attempt one of the following:

  • Persuade you to share personal details, such as your name and address
  • Install malicious software on your phone that collects information that can be used in identity theft or lock you out of your phone
  • Pretend to be a friend, family member or colleague and request money or gift cards, from vendors such as Apple or Google

Common examples of WhatsApp scams

Email phishing can be tricky to identify, as the cyber criminal poses as a corporation or unfamiliar person. Whereas on WhatsApp, they more commonly pose as someone the victim knows well enough to exchange regular messages with, like a friend, family member, colleague or trusted business.

One of the most common scenarios we see is the urgent favour.

This can start with a message from an unknown number, seeming to be someone you know, who claims they have just lost their phone and got a replacement. Or, in more sophisticated attempts, the criminal will have researched and impersonated the name of the person they claim to be.

In some instances, generic terms like ‘Mum’, ‘Dad’, ‘Sis’ or ‘Bro’ will be used. However, in targeted attempts, actual names and roles will be used so the scam can appear very convincing.

The story they tell varies but claims often include the inability to access internet banking (due to a new phone) or the inability to visit a store that sells gift cards – thus justifying the need for urgent help.

Victims are then convinced to carry out the required task (transfer cash or purchase gift cards, often sending pictures of the activation codes). The request usually invokes some sort of time pressure, which can further impact victims’ ability to step back and use better judgement.

Urgent Favour Whatsapp Scam

Other common WhatsApp scams include:

  • Requests for payments for import duties for an overseas courier parcel
  • An invitation to a special version of WhatsApp, WhatsApp Gold, which is purportedly used by celebrities
  • Scams that suggest you are the recipient of a voucher of some description – often a nationwide supermarket chain

All these scams have the same end goal in mind! Either to directly solicit funds from you or to gain access to your device or credentials to allow further malicious activity to take place.

How to protect yourself from WhatsApp scams?

There are a few ways you can avoid falling victim to WhatsApp scams:

  • Don’t send passwords, a PIN, or security codes, via messaging
  • Look out for anyone asking for urgent help or money
  • Always call anyone asking for money or purchasing assistance before acting to verify it’s them
  • If you can’t call, ask them something personal like their middle name or pets name
  • Enable two-step verification for extra security

WhatsApp scams for businesses

Application cyber crime is something many are blissfully unaware of, so it’s no surprise if the emergence of these hacking trends makes you feel unsettled.

With over five million businesses using WhatsApp, these scams are not always personal. They can lead to huge losses if targeted at a corporation.

If your business uses WhatsApp, you must take security seriously.

There’s no reason you shouldn’t benefit from an app that hosts over 2 billion users every month! You just need to put the right measures in place.

Whilst business messaging itself is secure through end-to-end encryption, it doesn’t mean you can’t be fooled by impersonators.

WhatsApp for Businesses

If you’re using WhatsApp for business:

  • Train your staff on the common WhatsApp scamming techniques, so they know what to look out for
  • Ensure you and your workforce report numbers from unsolicited accounts by scrolling down to the Report Contact option
  • Restrict who can add you and your staff to Groups in Settings > Account > Privacy > Groups, this will avoid your staff being dragged into groups they shouldn’t be a part of
  • Check if the sender is a non-verified Business account
    • Verified Business accounts will have a GREEN checkmark badge if they are an “authentic brand”
    • Verified Business accounts will have a GREY checkmark badge if they are using a phone number that matches the business they claim to be owned or operated by

Secure communication for your business

If you’re having doubts about WhatsApp, or any other application, as a secure communication method for your business – we can help.

With a whole team of cyber security experts, we have a breadth of knowledge on how you can manage your business devices and communicate internally and externally, with minimal exposure to cyber crime.

Our team can help you incorporate secure and reliable tools that will enable your business to operate efficiently and uninterrupted by hackers.

Why not give us a call to find out more? We’d be happy to discuss your needs and provide some recommendations.

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