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Most common WhatsApp scams and how to avoid them

WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app in the world, with around two billion users. With such a huge client base, it’s no surprise that WhatsApp has its fair share of scams to look out for. Here are a few of the most common ones and what you can do to avoid them.

Charles Whitmore

Charles Whitmore

Most common WhatsApp scams and how to avoid them

Types of WhatsApp scams

Many scammers on WhatsApp will have similar motivations and goals. Scammers want to steal your personal details for identity fraud purposes, install malware to potentially hold your device ransom, or just try to extort money out of you by pretending to be someone they aren’t.

Here are some of the most common WhatsApp scams that you need to be aware of.

Impersonation/the mom and dad scam

The most common and easiest to perform, the impersonation scam involves someone pretending to be a family member. Typically, the scammer impersonates the victim’s child, claiming that their phone is broken and that they’re messaging from a replacement phone or a friend’s phone.

Due to the new device, the “son/daughter” doesn’t have access to any mobile banking apps and desperately needs the funds to pay an urgent incoming bill or financial charge. It’s a common scam because it replicates a typical issue amongst parents and their children.

Verification trick

This verification trick scam starts when the victim receives two messages in quick succession. One of the messages is an apology from an alleged friend or family member who accidentally had a verification number sent to the victim’s account instead of their own. They’ll go on to ask for the 6-digit number the victim just received.

The only times someone will receive a verification code through WhatsApp is if they’re creating a new account or if someone is trying to log in to their account on an unfamiliar device. In this situation, the scammer is trying to log in to a victim’s account and needs the verification code to complete their deceit. If you receive a 6-digit verification code completely out of the blue, you might be the target of a scam.

Dating app cryptocurrency scam

So long as people are looking for love online, WhatsApp dating scams will look to capitalize on loneliness. The beginning stages of this scam are actually initiated on dating apps. Once a rapport has been established, the scammer will push for the victim to expand on the connection through messaging apps — typically WhatsApp.

Not long after the move over to WhatsApp, the scammer will start to talk about cryptocurrency and how a friend or relative they know has come across a lucrative new opportunity. If the victim wants in, all it takes is a cash deposit on a cryptocurrency trading site. Of course, once the cash has been exchanged, suddenly the interested romantic partner will block the victim and become unreachable.

Why do scammers use WhatsApp?

Scammers are opportunists and will cast as wide a net as possible in the off-chance they manage to catch someone out. By taking advantage of the fact that WhatsApp is the world’s most popular messaging app, they can reach out to far more potential victims than they would using another tool.

There’s a high chance that a scammer’s victims will have WhatsApp. If all their victims are located on one app, it makes it easy for the criminal to manage their crimes.

How to protect yourself from WhatsApp scammers

As with a lot of online scams, knowledge is power. Just by being aware of some of the most common scams, you’re already starting on the right foot. Once you learn the telltale signs of a scam in progress, it’ll be much harder to trick you. Here are some ways in which you can protect yourself from falling victim to a WhatsApp scam.

  • Ignore messages asking for money. This tip is a given for all scams, not just WhatsApp scams. Trust your instincts and analyze the texts and language used. Is the person asking for money talking differently to how they normally do? If the request for money is legitimate, they would likely reach out through other means, not just WhatsApp.
  • Set up two-factor authentication. By taking advantage of this security measure, you can make it trickier for scammers and hackers trying to steal your WhatsApp identity.
  • Time-limit messages. Scammers will want money as soon as physically possible. The more urgent the message and request, the more likely it is a scam.
  • Question the scammer. If you’re unsure the sender is legitimate, ask them a personal or sensitive question that only the true person would know. Be aware that scammers can conduct thorough research. Something as simple as asking for their middle name might not be enough.

What to do if you have been scammed on WhatsApp

So you’ve unfortunately been a victim of a WhatsApp scam. Don’t worry – it can happen to the best of us, you don’t have to delete WhatsApp and start over. Luckily, once bitten, twice shy. Now that you’re aware of what to look out for, it probably won’t happen again.

The next step is changing all of your passwords and bolstering your cybersecurity. Invest in a password manager, take advantage of two-factor authentication, and use a VPN to keep your online privacy safe.

How to report a WhatsApp scam

If you’ve fallen victim to a WhatsApp scam, you likely won’t be able to get your money back, but you can report the scam so – hopefully – no one else will fall victim. Luckily, on iPhone and Android, the process is incredibly similar. Here's what you need to do:

    1. Head into the WhatsApp “Settings.”
    2. Find the “Help” section.
    3. Finally, select the “Contact Us” option.

Now, you should be able to submit a report regarding the scam.

Getting scammed is always a difficult pill to swallow. So long as you maintain a healthy, everyday cybersecurity routine, you can keep one step ahead of the criminals.

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Charles Whitmore
Charles Whitmore Charles Whitmore
Charles is a content writer with a passion for online privacy and freedom of knowledge. A technophile with a weakness for full Smart Home integration – he believes everyone should strive to keep up-to-date with their cybersec.