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Five tips to avoid WhatsApp scams

With over two billion users, WhatsApp is a huge potential target for scammers. In December 2022, it was revealed that a database containing more than 500 million WhatsApp accounts was put up for sale on the dark web. By paying several thousand dollars, scammers can gain access to real information about the numerous active WhatsApp users. Since anyone who knows your phone number can send you a WhatsApp message, it is not difficult for fraudsters to reach their targets.

Cyber security company ESET investigated what to watch out for against WhatsApp scams and shared its recommendations.

Are we at risk?

WhatsApp users run the risk of being scammed. Scammers don’t usually target specific users, they use a trial and error method. Generally, they try their strategy on a few people, hoping to fool some people. Most of the time they are successful. Authorities around the world have received reports of fraud, reporting millions of dollars in damage.

Phishing and confirmation codes via SMS

You just received a text message with an unsolicited authentication code claiming to have been sent from Microsoft, Google, or even WhatsApp with the “beep” sound on your phone. You ignore this message, but then with a second “beep beep” a WhatsApp message from someone in your contacts catches your attention. It looks like the code was sent to you by mistake. A similar scenario can arise when someone you don’t know claims to have “mixed up some of your number”. The scammer’s goal is to gain access to your online account, which requires an SMS code for authentication. If you share this code, the scammer will steal your information and even impersonate you.

Impersonation scams

Even if it comes from an unknown number, you may not query a message that your friend asks you for money for an urgent payment. This message starts with “Hello, this is my new number”. Impersonating a friend or relative, this scammer goes further and strives to build trust and use generic responses that will convince almost anyone. Without realizing it, you send an amount of money that you can never get back. People around you, including other family members, may also be victims of the same scammer. Therefore, inform them and do not be ashamed of this situation.

Surveys, parcels and lotteries

You can also be tricked into giving your personal information instead of transferring money. While it may seem less risky than losing money outright, it can actually have far worse consequences in the long run. Some legal services provide customer support via WhatsApp. Therefore, it may not seem strange that your bank, for example, warns you of “fraud affecting customers” and asks you to fill out a form to prove the accuracy of your personal data to prevent this. This may include your banking user information! Another easy way to steal your information is to send fake DHL or UPS texts asking you to take a survey to verify your delivery information. Even if you’re not expecting a shipment, you can share this information in case someone sends you something unannounced.

Help-related scam

It is honorable to support a charity or charity within our means. However, in times of crisis, fraudsters are very likely to abuse our goodwill. The scammers have no shame and use all kinds of images and messages to get you to donate “for a good cause”. These scams often have fake websites and are spread via WhatsApp and other messaging and social media apps. They spread quickly when shared by well-meaning people who want to get more help by spreading the word. Scammers often use emotional tactics to deceive people by asking for money, claiming they are helping victims of natural disaster or disease. In some cases, they may even use the name of a legitimate charity to gain people’s trust. But donations never reach their target recipients. To avoid a charity scam, it’s important to do a thorough research about the organization before making any donations and be careful if this unwanted request comes from foreign numbers. It’s always best to contact the charity directly and verify if the request is legitimate.

How can we protect ourselves?

Always keep in mind that a stranger texting you on WhatsApp is a scammer. If possible, avoid responding to strangers who are texting you out of the blue. ESET experts also recommend paying attention to:

Avoid giving your personal information to people you don’t know.

Do not transfer funds without verifying whether this request is genuine. For example, if your friend sends you a message asking for money, call him and hear his voice.
Never share verification codes with anyone. If someone sent you their code by mistake, they may request a new one.
Do not open unfamiliar links. If a friend sends you something, ask your friend what it is and if he actually sent it to you. If you’re curious, watch for grammatical errors or weird links (for example, if the link goes to a URL that doesn’t match the company name).
Note that banks will not send you a WhatsApp message to ask questions. If you think your bank can contact you, let them know that you do not provide your personal information and identity information in messaging apps, do so only through their official website.

Source: (BYZHA) – Beyaz News Agency

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