When it was introduced in 2009, WhatsApp was meant as an alternative to SMS (or text) messaging. Since then, it has grown to also include photo, video, document, and location sharing, plus voice calling and voice mail.
Today, as a subsidiary of Facebook, WhatsApp serves more than 2 billion people all over the world. It has enabled open communication where traditional options have failed. For that, it is a rousing success. But there is a dark side: scams.
As the service and customer base have grown, so too have opportunities for scammers to make money and break hearts. Read on to learn more about how to recognize and protect yourself from some of the common WhatsUp scams:
Hackers Posing as WhatsApp Friends
Information is power. And it’s valuable, which is why scammers eagerly aim to get access to WhatsApp users’ account info and contacts.
This particular approach has existed for a while, mainly because it keeps working. Here, a scammer will send a text claiming to be a friend or other contact. Doing so is supposed to establish trust in their mark and make them more likely to respond as desired.
They are having trouble verifying their account and so need to have a 6-digit verification code sent to you. Can you send them that code when you get it?
Don’t do it. What the scammer is really doing is getting the verification they need to access your account, not theirs. WhatsApp would never share the verification code for another account with just any user. And they repeatedly warn you to never share a verification code with anyone else.
Hackers Posing as WhatsApp
As an alternative to acting like a contact/friend, this approach means to get access to an account under the guise of being someone from the WhatsApp company. Apart from that, this tactic is pretty similar.
A scammer will send you a text message claiming to be WhatsApp technical support or customer service. They want to verify that you are the legitimate user of your account. Please tell them when or if you receive a verification code, and what that code is.
Once again, this code, along with your cell phone number, is all a scammer needs to gain access to your account. WhatsApp does not contact its users through their SMS messaging service. So you should immediately be able to recognize such communication as a fraud.
Voicemail Account Hijacking
This is yet another avenue that scammers can take to access your account info. Here, timing becomes very important.
When WhatsApp is installed or reinstalled on a device, the app will send a verification code to the phone number of record. A hacker could claim that the code was never received and request a call instead. Right when WhatsApp is about to call, the hacker will call first. With the victim already on the line, the verification code goes into voicemail.
Unfortunately, many users often fail to change their default voicemail password. So, all the hacker has to do is guess one of a few simple defaults to gain access to a user’s voicemail and the verification code that will give the hacker access to the user’s entire account and information.
Lesson to be learned here? Change your default voicemail password immediately, preferably when first setting up your account.
Those in the business of catfishing have found WhatsApp to be prime territory for luring victims. In this case, it’s usually younger people. The growth of online dating has normalized the process of meeting someone virtually and becoming romantically attached. As such, it’s not a concern when someone you don’t know starts to communicate out of the blue.
This, coupled with the sheer volume of WhatsApp users makes it a great way to cast a wide net. From there, a catfish will get someone on the hook and move forward with their catfish M.O.:
- Create a sympathetic attachment with the story of their sad life.
- Then, back that up with their own claim of romantic feelings for their target.
- They would love to meet up face-to-face, but they live across the world or, you know, the pandemic.
- All of a sudden, they need money. A wire transfer or reloadable gift card would be best.
- They and the money disappear.
Catfishing and other romance scams are nothing new. WhatsApp just provides these scammers with an additional channel to find their marks. Whether here or elsewhere, the advice is pretty much the same…and simple: Don’t send money to someone you don’t know and have never met in person before.
All-in-all, WhatsApp is good thing. It has enabled and revolutionized communication all around the world. Just be smart about how you use the app. And be sure you really know who it is you’re communicating with.
For more information about hacking, scams, and other kinds of cybercrime, be sure to read the PeopleFinders Blog.
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