WhatsApp is a widely used messaging app that has become a favorite among people of all age groups. Because of its simplicity and easy accessibility, it’s become an essential tool for many people and businesses.
But, with the growing popularity of this app, many scammers are trying to take advantage of its users. While these scams can be avoided by simply being aware of them, you may not know how to identify the scams and end up losing money.
Here are some common WhatsApp scams that you need to avoid:
1. Fake Lottery Prize Scam
The fake lottery scam is one of the most common on WhatsApp. Scammers will get in touch and offer you a chance to win a lot of money by simply sharing your personal information with the sender. The sender usually poses as a representative of a popular lottery or sweepstakes company.
The catch is that you will need to pay some administrative fees upfront before receiving your prize money. The truth is that there is no lottery prize, and someone just wants your money! If you get such messages on your WhatsApp account, delete them immediately.
Another version of this scam involves someone claiming to be from a bank or government agency who says you’ve won money or a prize but need to send them money first to cover taxes and fees.
2. Fake Money Transfer Messages
Many fake money transfer messages in circulation on WhatsApp claim that they are from well-known companies such as PayPal or Western Union who have supposedly sent money but failed to receive it due to some technical problem or system error.
The messages look legitimate and even include a number you can call if you have any questions regarding the transaction. The scammers hope that you fall for this trick and make a deposit into their account, which they will then use for their purposes.
These WhatsApp messages may also contain an attachment with a file name such as “money transfer notification” or “transfer confirmation.” If you open this attachment, it may install malware on your phone. This malware can steal your personal information and access your photos, videos, and other files stored on your phone.
3. Unsolicited Business Offers
Scammers will try to send you unsolicited messages about the latest business opportunity, promising you the chance to make money. These opportunities might involve investment or a product that will supposedly be profitable later.
The scammer may also ask for your personal information, such as your bank account number or credit card number. The easiest way to avoid this scam is to ignore unsolicited messages simply. Never follow instructions that require you to send money or share passwords or financial information.
4. Fake Job Offers
Job offers are pretty standard on WhatsApp and usually come from unknown numbers or profiles. You should never trust these offers as they could be scams. It is best to ignore them and not respond to their messages.
The way it works is that you will get a message from a person who claims to be HR at a company that is hiring for recruitment. The person will ask you to send an application form with your details and passport photo via WhatsApp so they can forward them to their boss.
If you accept the offer, they may even ask you to transfer money into their bank account to not lose out on their investment in hiring you. Remember that there are no jobs worth risking your hard-earned money.
5. Money Laundering Schemes on WhatsApp
Scammers often prey on people who have fallen on hard times and promise them large sums of money if they help transfer funds through their bank accounts for a small percentage of the total amount of the transfer.
Sometimes these schemes involve fake companies that claim they need cash for an important business transaction but can’t get it because of banking restrictions or other reasons. Once you get roped into the scheme, you may lose more than just some money.
6. Phishing Scams
Phishing scams are designed to trick you into sharing your personal information, such as credit card numbers or email logins and passwords, with cybercriminals by posing as legitimate businesses or government agencies. These messages often contain links that lead to malicious websites that try to steal your information or install malware on your device.
If you receive a suspicious text message with a link, don't click on it! Instead, go directly to the website in question and make sure it's legitimate before entering any personal details or money into their account over the Internet.
7. Fraudulent Invoice Payment Requests/Notices
This scam is a specialized version of generic phishing scams. It’s a classic example of how criminals use social engineering to trick people into divulging confidential information. Fraudulent invoice payment requests are sent via WhatsApp and linked to a fraudulent website.
The message asks the recipient to pay the invoice by clicking the link to avoid late payment charges. Once you click on the link, you’ll get directed to a fake website that looks like the original company’s website.
As soon as you enter your credit card details, including the CVV number, your card information can get used by crooks for fraudulent purchases.
8. Dealerships Selling Non-Existent Cars
Fake car dealerships use WhatsApp to advertise cars that don't exist – and then sell the same “car” to multiple people. If a dealership offers you a price, it's best to ask them for the VIN of the car they're selling.
Then, you can use that VIN to see if it exists in any state's DMV records. If it doesn't exist, you probably shouldn't buy it. If you ever receive a message like this, it's best to ignore it.
9. WhatsApp Cryptocurrency Investment Scams
Cryptocurrency investment scams have been on the rise since the beginning of 2018. To date, this is one of the most popular scams being run on WhatsApp. The scam starts when a user receives a message about an opportunity to invest in cryptocurrency at a low price and make significant returns within days or weeks.
The offer often comes with images and graphs from popular cryptocurrency websites to look legitimate. The scammers also share fake news or articles on cryptocurrency investments to lure in more victims.
In most cases, the scammers ask the victim to pay a fee before receiving access to their investment offer. Once they receive the payment, they disappear and block all communication channels with the victim.
10. Online Shopping Scams
WhatsApp scammers may try to contact you with an offer of goods at a very low price. The scammer will ask you to pay for the goods via an online payment service like PayPal or Moneygram, but they won't send you any goods in return.
In some cases, scammers will send you fake goods and then ask for money back on fake shipping costs. They may also send you damaged goods and then ask for money back on repairs or replacements.
How to Protect Yourself and Avoid WhatsApp Scams
WhatsApp has over two billion active users as of 2021. That’s a massive number of people, making the platform highly popular for scammers. The biggest issue with WhatsApp scams is that they're difficult to distinguish from regular messages because WhatsApp allows anyone with your phone number to send you messages.
Here are some tips to help you avoid WhatsApp scams and keep your money, phone, and personal data safe:
- Know the common scams in play online and understand how they work.
- Always be careful about the links on which you click.
- If you see an offer you can't resist, do a quick search to ensure it's not a scam.
- Be skeptical of offers that seem too good to be true.
- Don't share your WhatsApp verification code with anyone.
- Don't share personal information with anyone who contacts you through WhatsApp.
- Practice good online security habits.
WhatsApp Scams Are Happening Worldwide
New Zealand's Westpac Bank warns of WhatsApp scam targeting parents. The scammer preys on emotions to con payment details out of softhearted folks.
Residents of Nottinghamshire in England are being warned of WhatsApp scams that attempt to get them to visit an off-app website. The website then lures victims into downloading malicious apps onto their phones.
WhatsApp users in Singapore are targeted by scammers pretending to be WhatsApp officials. The scammers try to steal payment information and security codes from victims.
What to Do If you Fall Prey to a WhatsApp Scam
If you are a victim of a scam on WhatsApp, your actions will largely depend on your country of residence. The most important thing is to remain calm and find all records about the fraud. That includes screenshots of messages or other correspondence and contact details.
Next, where you live will affect the avenues of redress or assistance available. Here are some examples of who you can contact in case of WhatsApp (or other cybercrime) in specific areas;
If you live in the US, you can access the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center website. Aside from that, it will also be good to lodge a report at your local police station to get the case on file.
UK residents can visit the Action Fraud website. This website is run by the City of London Police and supported by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau. It covers cybercrimes involving England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Australians can phone the Australian Cyber Security Hotline at 1300 292 371. You can visit the NSW Government website for other information on what to do in the event of a WhatsApp scam or other cybercrime.
In addition to the authorities, you should also make a report to WhatsApp and notify them of the scam. Unfortunately, there are limited ways you can do this. Your best bet is simply to follow their reporting procedures if possible.
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Final Thoughts on WhatsApp Scams
It's no surprise then that numerous scams circulate on WhatsApp with so many people using the app. Knowing how to avoid online scams is an integral part of digital life today. Scams are abundant, given the relative anonymity that cyberspace offers.
You can win half the battle by understanding that scammers prey on human weakness. Never forget that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.