WhatsApp is the most popular messaging tool worldwide, with over two billion users, and it is almost like oxygen for all of us. It is the second-most downloaded app. WhatsApp may be a good way to remain in contact with friends and family around the world.
While the main feature is texting, WhatsApp also allows you to make statuses, send voice messages, share your location, and to make voice and video calls. However, a scammer can simply download your profile picture (from WhatsApp) and use it with any other number, pose as you and can cheat a million people in a day . There’s some risk involved, and we listed a few of the most recent WhatsApp scams for user awareness purposes.
Few WhatsApp Scams:
(1) Impersonation fraud on WhatsApp – A fraudster gets the name and profile picture of a senior officer/political executive/constitutional authority, celebrity of any organisation/department/field obtained from social media sites, email, messenger apps, etc., and uses them to dupe the subordinates. There are a large number of applications sold on the dark web which give you access to the contacts or friends list of the targeted victim.
Once the fake profile is created with a name and picture resembling exactly the same as on social profiles (fraudsters sometimes replicate all the postings in the fake profile), they then send WhatsApp messages to their targets, claiming an emergency situation and needing money on an urgent basis. Most of the victims transfer money without seeking much detailed information, assuming that their boss, loved one, or friend is in a difficult situation and it is time to support them. Highly reputed officers, celebrities, politicians, lawyers, doctors, and social media influencers who have a huge follower base are ideally chosen to be impersonated on WhatsApp.
(2) WhatsApp Verification/Hijacking Scam – To secure your account, WhatsApp employs two-factor authentication. When installing the app or logging back in, you’ll receive a six-digit code that you’ll use to access your WhatsApp account. If you didn’t request this verification, it should be a red flag that somebody is trying to steal your account or has access to your phone.
Scammers who are looking into your account want your verification code to hijack your WhatsApp account. Never share your 06 digit SMS code to make sure your account is safe. In most of the verification scams, we have observed that the WhatsApp number taken over is used for future scamming or wanting to cause damage to victims reputation.
(3) WhatsApp Gold – The WhatsApp Gold membership appears to be a recurring WhatsApp scam every few years. You will possibly see a message offering an exclusive, higher-level, feature-rich version of WhatsApp designed for celebrities and high-profile accounts. Scammers may additionally send a message warning that if you do not upgrade, your phone will be hacked.
However, there’s no such release from WhatsApp. The invitation link provided will have a malware, which can steal information on your phone. If you receive an invite to WhatsApp Gold, just block the number who has sent it.
(4). Coupon Scams – You commonly receive links to coupons and specials for your favourite shopping places, supermarkets, where you have subscribed or are a member. Fraudsters take this as an opportunity and send fake coupons /discount offer and request you to click the links. Opening such links to redeem the discount will result in installation malware or other issues on your phone.
To avoid trouble, don’t open any short links on WhatsApp from individuals or organisations you don’t know. You have to first verify if it is a phishing link or a genuine link before you claim the offer or discount.
(5.) Sextortion/Romance Scams: Scammers will ping you on WhatsApp with a high-profile model and claim to know you and want to have a discreet relationship with you. On curiosity, the victim starts chatting and falls for the fake narrative.
Suddenly, the girl will undress slowly and get nude and make you get nude and get you pleasured. The experience will quickly take a U-turn. The scammer will claim that they have your pictures/screen recordings of their brief cyber-sex session and were going to send them to everyone the victim knew.
(6) Lottery or Gift Scams: Scammers send messages claiming you’ve won a lottery (Kaun Banega Crorepati Etc) or are eligible for a free gift or lottery. To claim it, you’re requested to a fee i.e., Differential Amount, Gift Tax, Processing Fee Etc. This is a tactic to steal your information or money.
(7) Charity Scams: Requests for donations to fake charities, especially after major disasters like covid or during holiday seasons. Scammers exploit people’s goodwill to steal money.
(8) Investment Scams: Messages from unknown contacts, promoting investment schemes that promise high returns in a short period. These are typically pyramid schemes or fraudulent investment opportunities.
(9)Hijacked Account: Even hijacked accounts of known contacts reach you out for money pretending to having an emergency situations. Please call /meet the person and confirm is he really the same person requesting money.
(10) Blackmail and Extortion: Threatening to release sensitive information or content unless a payment is made. Scammers may claim they have compromising photos or information. (i.e.,Sextortion / Romance Frauds)
Some basic tactics used by fraudsters’ in WhatsApp scams:
- The scammer conveys a sense of urgency and tries to convince you or pressurises you to either pay quickly or quickly scan the QR code or share the OTP or verification code.
- The Fraudsters’ messages are written in poor English, as often the Fraudsters’ are not well educated.
- The fraudsters do not want to be called on their direct number; instead, they prefer WhatsApp Voice and Text messages.
- The fraudster asks you to transfer money to an unknown accounts or uses an app that doesn’t show account numbers such as PayPal etc.
- Fraudsters usually send fake FIR and lawyer notices on WhatsApp to victims and morph their pictures to send unruly images on victims networks.
Few safety tips:
- Never share your registration code or two-step verification PIN with others.
- Enable two-step verification and provide an email address in case you forget your PIN.
- Set privacy setups – You can set your last seen, profile photo or status
- Communicate with known contacts only
- Ask for permission and respect boundaries
- Do fact checking before forwarding messages
- Regularly review your privacy settings to control who can see your profile photo, last seen, status, and about information, you may consider setting these to “My Contacts” instead of “Everyone.”
- If you use WhatsApp Web or WhatsApp on a desktop, always log out after your session on shared computers, to prevent others from accessing your messages.
- Regularly back up your WhatsApp chats to restore them if needed.
- Be wary of messages from unknown numbers. Scammers often use unknown numbers to spread phishing links, scams, or malware. If you receive suspicious or unsolicited messages, block and report the sender.
- Block or report a contact when crime happens. https://faq.whatsapp.com/2798237480402991/
- Also you can report a cyber crime with police, https://www.cybercrime.gov.in or reach the toll free number 1930.