Watch Out for WhatsApp Scams That ‘Come From Family’

Unfortunately, cyberattacks on digital platforms, including WhatsApp, are nothing new, and the latest scams targeting this widely used messaging app are an easy trap to fall into.

This article delves into the new tactics scammers are attempting, examines their methods, and offers defensive strategies to safeguard against these evolving cybersecurity threats.

Key Takeaways

  • WhatsApp, with over two billion users, faces constant cyber threats exploiting users through malware, deceptive links, and financial scams.
  • Scammers employ urgency tactics, pushing users to send money or update information through fabricated emergencies.
  • The most common tactics to gain access to accounts include fake WhatsApp Web results on search engines and social engineering.

Why WhatsApp Is a Prime Target

WhatsApp scams employ cunning cyber techniques to exploit users worldwide, manipulating them into installing malware, clicking malicious links, sharing personal data, or even sending money.

With over two billion monthly active users, WhatsApp provides a vast pool for cybercriminals to target, making it essential for users to be vigilant against various offenses.

WhatsApp’s simplicity in account creation and accessibility through the WhatsApp Web interfaces creates an environment ripe for exploitation.

Scammers can easily create multiple fake profiles, and the minimal registration requirements facilitate the creation of fraudulent accounts. Consequently, WhatsApp has become a breeding ground for cyber scams.

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Common Scamming Techniques

WhatsApp scammers typically focus on three main objectives: stealing money or cryptocurrency, obtaining identifiable information, and spreading malware. These scams often induce a sense of urgency, compelling users to take immediate actions, such as sending money or updating information, through imaginary emergencies or threats.

Why Users Are Losing Money Helping Friends and Family

In one approach, perpetrators impersonate users’ family members or friends, creating fake emergency messages to trick them into sending money. Exploiting emotions and making up crises, scammers succeed in convincing users that they are genuinely assisting someone in need.

Many victims remain unaware of the scam for weeks or months, resulting in significant financial losses. The Singapore Police Force identified $606,000 stolen via WhatsApp in the first two weeks of November 2023 alone.

The two most common methods include fake WhatsApp Web results on Google and social engineering.

Fake ‘WhatsApp Web’ Google Results

Scammers create a fake WhatsApp Web page resembling the legitimate version, which appears at or near the top of search engine results.

When users unknowingly click on this fake result, they are prompted to scan a QR code, granting unauthorized access to their WhatsApp account.

Social Engineering

Once access is gained, scammers send messages to contacts, weaving fake stories of emergencies or urgent needs. They convince recipients to send money, exploiting their trust. If scammers exit the account quickly, victims may remain unaware of the incident.

Defensive Techniques

To counter this scam, awareness is crucial. Implementing the following strategies can help users protect themselves:

Prevent Clicking on Fake WhatsApp Web Pages

Avoid searching WhatsApp Web on Google; instead, directly type “web.whatsapp.com” in the browser’s address bar. Alternatively, bookmark the correct URL for easy access.

Avoid or Verify Payments Requested on WhatsApp

Be cautious of unusual writing styles or message misspellings, indicating potential fraud. Before taking any action, contact the person outside of WhatsApp through a regular phone call to confirm the legitimacy of their request.

The Bottom Line

Staying updated about the latest WhatsApp scams and sharing this awareness can be a powerful deterrent.

In the unfortunate event of falling victim, individuals should promptly report the scam to WhatsApp or their local police force and take necessary actions to mitigate further risks.

And remember, awareness is the first line of defense against evolving cyber threats.

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Kuntal Chakraborty

Kuntal Chakraborty is an Information Technology Engineer by profession and education and the founder of Philarity.com. He has rich technical expertise working as a Systems Engineer and Network Engineer at Siemens and Atos. Kuntal has also worked in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) domains in different roles. Besides, he has a deep interest in Cyber security and published a few articles on it in some international publications. He has also created and successfully published some Alexa skills as a part of Amazon Alexa crowd developer community.