Your IP: Unknown · Your Status: ProtectedUnprotectedUnknown

Skip to main content

Most common WhatsApp scams and how to avoid them

WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app in the world, with over 2 billion monthly active users. With such a vast 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 WhatsApp scams and how to avoid them.

Most common WhatsApp scams and how to avoid them

Why do scammers use WhatsApp?

WhatsApp is an attractive place for scams for many different reasons:

  • A large pool of potential victims. Scammers are opportunists and cast as wide a net as possible on the off-chance they catch someone. By taking advantage of WhatsApp being the world’s most popular messaging app, they can reach out to more potential victims than they would on another platform.
  • Convenience. Creating an account on WhatsApp is simple, so scammers can register and navigate multiple fraudulent accounts. And thanks to WhatsApp Web, they can access the platform on their computers, making targeting victims and automating scams even easier. Moreover, sharing various media files is possible on WhatsApp, enabling scammers to attach and distribute malware.
  • Anonymity. When registering, WhatsApp doesn’t require much personal data, so scammers can create anonymous accounts. WhatsApp chats are also end-to-end encrypted, enabling fraudsters to conduct their illegitimate activity discreetly.

Types of WhatsApp scams

Many WhatsApp scammers have similar motivations and goals. They want to steal personal details, commit identity theft, install malicious software on your device, or hustle money out of you by pretending to be someone they aren’t. Here are some of the most common scams on WhatsApp.

Impersonation or “the mom and dad” scam

The impersonation scam is one of the easiest deceits to perform. Scammers use social engineering to play on your feelings for your family.

How does the scam work? The scammers pretend to be a family member, typically the victim’s child. The “son/daughter” claims their phone is broken and that they’re messaging from a friend’s account. Due to the new device, they don’t have access to any mobile banking apps and desperately need the funds to pay an urgent incoming bill or financial charge.

What can you do about it? Don’t reply to the scammer. Contact the person in question directly, on their usual WhatsApp account, or by other means. Direct communication should reveal the scam in no time.

Verification code scam

When scammers try to log in to your account, they need a verification code to complete their deceit. If you receive a 6-digit verification code out of the blue, you might be the target of a verification code scam.

How does the scam work? The verification code scam starts with the victim receiving 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 ask for the 6-digit number the victim has just received.

What can you do about it? If you receive a verification code from WhatsApp and you’re not registering a new device or trying to log in to your account, suspect that someone is targeting you in a scam and never share that code with anyone.

Dating or romance scam

Tinder swindlers are everywhere, including on WhatsApp. So long as people look for love online, WhatsApp dating scams will try to capitalize on loneliness.

How does the scam work? The beginning of this scam usually starts on dating apps. Once the conversation starts rolling, the scammer will push to move it to messaging apps, typically WhatsApp. Not long after the move to WhatsApp, the scammer begins asking for money, requesting nudes for use in blackmail, or sending you malware in disguise.

What can you do about it? Learn to recognize dating scams. If you’ve never met the person, they have no social presence outside of WhatsApp and dating apps, and the whole online relationship sounds too good to be true – it’s because it probably is. Never send sensitive data or money to strangers you meet online, even if they profess undying love to you.

Cryptocurrency, investing, and job scams

Cryptocurrency and investing scams are similar to impersonation and dating schemes – scammers once again try to steal your hard-earned cash.

How does the scam work? Sometimes the scammer initiates a platonic or romantic relationship on WhatsApp or another platform, and the conversation eventually moves to WhatsApp. They soon start talking about cryptocurrency and how their friend or relative has encountered a lucrative new opportunity. If the victim wants in, it only takes a cash deposit on a cryptocurrency trading site. Of course, once the cash has been exchanged, the “friend” blocks the victim and becomes unreachable.

Other times, the victim is added to WhatsApp groups full of cryptocurrency enthusiasts. They are the ones discovering opportunities for guaranteed-return investments. Many “regular” folks are in the group, too, thanking advisors for such excellent insider tips and sharing the bogus returns those opportunities helped them earn.

Job scams on WhatsApp work similarly – except instead of baiting you with a lucrative investment, the scammer pretends to offer you your dream job.

What can you do about it? Refrain from being taken in by overpraised investment opportunities, especially when strangers suggest them to you. If you want to invest money, buy cryptocurrency, or apply for a job, research reputable exchanges and companies before transferring money.

WhatsApp Gold scam

WhatsApp Gold is a fake membership or premium version of WhatsApp that plays a central part in the WhatsApp Gold scam.

How does the scam work? You receive a smishing message or a phishing email inviting you to upgrade to WhatsApp Gold – an exclusive version of WhatsApp with fabulous features only VIPs have access to. Once you click the link to upgrade, it starts a download of malicious software or takes you to a phony website resembling what a legitimate WhatsApp app download page would look like. The page eventually leads you to downloading malware too.

What can you do about it? Appreciate WhatsApp as it is (or switch to a more secure messaging app), and don’t expect an exclusive upgrade. If someone notifies you of one, it’s bait – report the spam messages and the contact to WhatsApp and go on with your life.

Lottery scam

Sweepstakes and the possibility of winning prizes tempt many people, so hoax lotteries are a lucrative swindle among scammers.

How does the scam work? Lottery scams start with a message announcing you as a winner of some prize. It’s like those deceitful pop-ups telling you you’ve won an iPhone, except in a WhatsApp message. Fraudsters often impersonate actual lottery companies to look more legitimate.

If you follow the link, you are requested to submit sensitive data, such as bank account details, to pay for the prize delivery.

Another variation of the scam invites you to buy lottery tickets. Once you submit your payment card information, you lose more money than any lottery ticket would cost.

What can you do about it? Don’t expect to win in a lottery if you didn’t enter one, to begin with. And when it comes to buying lottery tickets, only do so via an official company site, not by following links on WhatsApp or other messaging apps.

PRO TIP: Scammers are not the only people who can send you a message leading to a fraudulent website or malware download. Friends and family can receive phishing messages from scammers and mistakenly forward them to you. Just because you know the person doesn’t mean every link and file they send you is legitimate.

Gift card and coupon scams

Gift cards and coupons can be as enticing as cash prizes from a bogus lottery, so scammers use them to con innocent WhatsApp users.

How does the scam work? Many variations of this scam exist. A random WhatsApp user can ask you to fill out a survey, promising a gift card as a reward. Or an unsuspecting friend may forward you a smishing message with an enormous discount coupon for your favorite shop.

None of those gift cards or coupon codes work and are only a nice little package for malware downloads and scammy websites that collect your credentials or other information.

What can you do about it? Don’t trust promises of gift cards or coupons you get on WhatsApp, especially if you receive them from strangers. Your friends can forward such surveys or coupon scam messages, too, so in general, be on the lookout for offers that seem too good or too easy to get – most likely, it’s a scam.

Malware and virus scam

While all the mentioned WhatsApp scams can lead to malware infection, some scammers try to get you to install malware without elaborate con games.

How does the scam work? Hackers can send messages with fake software updates, links to websites that distribute malware, or random malicious attachments.

The classic “Are you in this video?” scam that’s popular on other social media sites can also happen on WhatsApp. If you click the video, it will spam all your contacts with the same virus.

What can you do about it? Don’t open links or download attachments from people you don’t trust. If a friend sends you a suspicious message, think twice before believing it too. Try messaging your friend on a different channel to ensure they sent you the link or attachment – they may not be aware that they’ve been scammed or hacked.

Tips to protect yourself from WhatsApp scams

Learning the telltale signs of common WhatsApp scams is the first step to being better equipped to stay safe on WhatsApp. Here are other ways to help you protect yourself from falling victim to a WhatsApp scam.

1. Verify the sender

If a scammer impersonates your friend or relative, try giving the actual person a phone call or get in touch with them on a different platform. It should be easy to verify their WhatsApp story.

You can also ask the sender a personal or sensitive question to which only your friend or family member would know the answer. Be aware that scammers can conduct thorough research. Something as simple as asking for their middle name might not be enough.

2. Ignore messages asking for money

This tip is a given for all scams, not just those on WhatsApp.

Trust your instincts and analyze the language used in the messages. Is the person asking for money talking differently from how they usually do? If the request for money is legitimate, and the person is who they say they are, they would likely reach out through other means, not just WhatsApp.

Pay attention to the urgency of the request too. Scammers will want money as soon as possible. The more urgent the message and request, the more likely it is a scam.

3. Avoid sharing personal information

Your bank, government, or even your favorite shop will never ask for your password, bank details, or other personal information in an email or phone call – let alone WhatsApp. So when someone does, it’s safe to assume it’s a scam.

Also, avoid adding too much personal information to your profile. Your WhatsApp status doesn’t need to be updated daily or contain information about your life and family. Neither does the “About” section on your profile. And neither your status nor the “About” section should be public.

Scammers can also gather information about you on other platforms, so be mindful of what you share publicly online.

4. Keep the device and apps up to date

System and software updates contain patches to close known exploits and fix security bugs on your device and apps. Installing them promptly is a must to prevent hackers from exploiting vulnerabilities on your smartphone, WhatsApp, or other applications.

5. Be careful with links and attachments

If you didn’t expect a link or attachment, don’t click or download it. WhatsApp scammers can use their bots to spam you with different ploys, and even your friends can forward you malicious messages.

Phishing scams are everywhere, so be cautious with every unexpected link and file you receive on WhatsApp, email, and other platforms. To enjoy the peace of mind when opening unknown links, consider using NordVPN anti-phishing tool which enhances your online safety by blocking malicious links.

6. Use 2FA to protect your WhatsApp account

You won’t always be the intended target of a WhatsApp scam. Hackers could use your account to scam someone else.

Protecting your account is as crucial as recognizing the signs of WhatsApp fraud. So set up two-factor authentication (2FA) on your account to prevent unauthorized logins. By taking advantage of 2FA, you can make it trickier for scammers and hackers to steal your WhatsApp identity.

7. Report the contact and scam to WhatsApp

If you’ve encountered a scammer or fallen victim to a WhatsApp scam, report the fraud so no one else is deceived.

On iPhone and Android, the reporting process is straightforward:

  • To report a scam, open WhatsApp and go to “Settings” > “Help” > “Contact Us.” Here you should be able to submit a report regarding the scam.
  • To report an account, open the chat with the scammer, click the three-dot icon in the top-right corner, and go to “More” > “Report.” The last five messages will be forwarded to WhatsApp while the chat will be deleted and the person blocked.

What to do if you have been scammed on WhatsApp

Scammers are clever, so falling victim to a scam can happen to the best of us. You don’t have to delete WhatsApp and start over. Now that you know what to look for, it probably won’t happen again.

What you should do is:

  1. Report the scammer to WhatsApp.
  2. If you clicked any links or downloaded any files, notify your WhatsApp contacts about potential suspicious messages from your account. Do the same if you lost access to your WhatsApp account.
  3. Take care of your cybersecurity defenses. Use strong passwords, invest in a password manager, take advantage of two-factor authentication, and use NordVPN’s additional Threat Protection feature to prevent accessing websites hosting malicious content.