WhatsApp is an 'irresistible' platform for scammers and there's a new fraud tactic users need to watch out for, according to cybersecurity experts VPN Overview.
With over two billion users worldwide, the instant messaging platform is a 'favourite target' for fraudsters and as a result, VPN Overview warns that the scams are becoming more 'ingenious and effective than ever'.
One such tactic - the Friend or Family Emergency scam - has recently emerged on the messaging app which involves cybercriminals pretending to be your acquaintance and urgently asking for money.
To help users spot the tell-tale signs of the scam, VPN Overview has rounded up the red flags that you should be on the lookout for and what to do if you do fall victim to WhatsApp fraud.
What is WhatsApp friend or family emergency scam?
The scam typically sees criminals posing as a member of your family or a friend looking for money.
The fraudster asks you for financial help because 'they urgently have to pay a (high) bill' or 'they have an emergency and urgently need some money'.
The criminals create a sense of urgency, pretending to be in a hurry in order to make their victims take immediate action.
What does the WhatsApp friend and family scam look like?
In the majority of cases, the criminal uses a phone number that is unknown to the victim but they attached a familiar profile picture.
As a result, the victim is more inclined to think that they are talking with a friend or member of their family.
A photo can easily be copied by criminals from the likes of Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms to give victims this impression.
Criminals will also use information to mislead their targets including adopting some bits of vocabulary used by the friend and family member on social media.
The scammers might also refer to certain events that the individual posted about online for example: 'Should’ve asked you for help when we were in that bar yesterday…'.
What are the tell-tale signs of WhatsApp scams
VPN Overview has identified six tell-tale signs that WhatsApp users should be watching out for:
Scammer creates a sense of urgency and pressures you to pay quickly.
Scammer contacts you from an unknown number.
Scammer informs about a number change and quickly talks about money.
Poor English is used in their messages.
Scammer does not want to be called.
Scammer asks for money to be transferred to an unknown account or uses an app that hides account numbers.
Tips to prevent WhatsApp fraud
Here are eight tips to help prevent WhatsApp fraud from happening to you, according to the cybersecurity experts:
Check if the number is correct if someone asks for money.
Check the language and communication style of the message.
Call the number or contact the person in a different way to verify the story.
Do not let the fraudster pressure you; think logically.
Ask the scammer a question only your friend or acquaintance would know the answer to if suspicious.
Secure voicemail with a personal code.
Never send a verification code without questioning.
Set up "2-Factor Authentication" on WhatsApp.
VPN Overview added: "Remember that the tips provided above are not only important to protect yourself.
"If criminals manage to hijack your WhatsApp account, they can easily scam your contacts and possibly take over the accounts of your friends and family as well".
What do I do if I become victim to WhatsApp fraud?
If you have been a victim of WhatsApp fraud, VPN says that it is important to remain calm and report the incident to your bank and the police.
It may be possible to reverse the payment in some cases but individuals need to act quickly.
Wire transfers are harder to recover, and online payment services or apps can complicate the process.
Even if a refund is not issued, the bank will investigate the fraud claim to protect customers and prevent future fraud.
Reporting scams to WhatsApp and AnyScam is also recommended, and national help groups for victims of fraud can assist individuals in dealing with the process and preventing future fraud.