Social media and other communications platforms are certainly no stranger to hackers and scams. Personal, online pages are rich in information and friend lists that scammers like to go after, and of course money is a target as well.
The Better Business Bureau serving Mainland BC has been made aware of a scam targeting WhatsApp users in China, with concerns Canadians will be targeted as well. WhatsApp is a free, cross-platform messaging service application owned by Facebook that accesses the user’s own phone number and allows text, image, and video messaging on mobile devices. It’s a popular app for travelling, as users can call home via Wi-Fi without having to incur extra roaming charges on their plans. Currently, more than one billion people around the world use the app.
The scam BBB has been hearing about is akin to the Emergency Grandparent Scam. This is when a crook contacts their victim and claims to be a relative in trouble, who then bilks money from unsuspecting seniors.
In the WhatsApp scenario, the scammer manages to hack a friend’s account; then they contact the victim asking for money, often requesting to buy online gaming point cards.
“The tough thing about scams like these is that they appear to be coming from someone you know and likely trust,” says Evan Kelly, Senior Communications Advisor for BBB serving Mainland BC. “The conversation may start off as normal, but then it gravitates to what might seem like an odd suggestion or request involving money. It may seem odd coming from your friend.”
WhatsApp has been used by scammers for a variety of schemes, many in the form of smishing texts and emails, such as fake offers of airline tickets. If it seems too good to be true, it is.
There are ways to protect yourself from an app scam. These include:
Get antivirus software for your phone. Just as you use antivirus software for your computer, you should get similar software for your mobile devices.
Confirm, confirm, confirm. Contact your “friend” directly outside the app to make sure it is or is not them.
Search before you click. If something seems suspicious, do a quick search online. You can easily find out if the new deal or feature is for real.
Enable Two Step Verification. WhatsApp offers this to better protect your information. Also, you can limit who can see your information in the app’s security settings.
Watch for the usual warning signs. Scammers might be impersonating the latest tech companies or friends, but that doesn’t mean their scams are sophisticated.
Look for poor grammar and spelling, and reply email addresses that don’t match the business.
Change your passwords. Changing your passwords for any and all of your online accounts a few times a year helps protect your personal and financial information and keep it safe.