WhatsApp users are being advised to stay alert of a new con that sees scammers pose as friends or family in need of help.
Scammers are targeting WhatsApp users with messages which claim they are in need of help, with stories ranging from someone being stuck abroad and in need of money to return home to a family member who needs support with a bill.
The messages can appear to come from friends and family through scammers gaining access to their accounts, or from an unknown number which claims the sender has lost their phone or been ‘locked out’ of their account.
Nurse and mum-of-four Toni Parker fell victim to the scam after being convinced she was talking to her eldest son. She attempted to help what she believed to be her desperate family member, but ended up being conned out of £2,500.
Commenting on the incident, per the Metro, Toni said: ‘I love my kids and if they text me in need I will help them, who wouldn’t help their own children? These scammers know this and I think they are purposely targeting mothers because it is our natural instinct to help.’
Warnings about the ‘friend in need’ scams have come from both WhatsApp and consumer protection body the National Trading Standards, with Louise Baxter, the head of the National Trading Standards, explaining the sender may attempt to find out personal information.
She commented: ‘Scammers send messages that appear to come from a friend or family member asking for personal information, money or a six-digit pin number.’
A 2021 survey conducted by WhatsApp reportedly determined 59% of people have either received a scam text in the past year or know someone who has. While 46% of the messages were sent via SMS, 13% were on WhatsApp.
In a bid to avoid falling victim to the scams, WhatsApp has advised users to try and verify the person’s identity via a phone call or a voice note. The company said: ‘A friend in need is a friend worth calling.’
Kathryn Harnett, policy manager at WhatsApp, has explained the company protects users’ personal messages with end-to-end encryption, but that it wants to ‘remind people that we all have a role to play in keeping our accounts safe by remaining vigilant to the threat of scammers.’
The company has advised people against sharing their WhatsApp pin codes with others, and recommends users set up two-step verification for extra security.
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Topics: Technology, scam, whatsapp