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The 7 most common WhatsApp scams and how to avoid them

Cristina POPOV

April 17, 2024

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The 7 most common WhatsApp scams and how to avoid them

Over the past few years, WhatsApp scams have become increasingly common. These scams take various forms, ranging from hackers trying to obtain bank account details to criminals impersonating friends, family members, love interests, or employers and asking users to transfer money.

These scams have become more diverse and sophisticated over time.

But they also have a common goal: to trick users into revealing personal information, sending money, or downloading malware. Scammers use WhatsApp because they can reach billions of potential victims due to its popularity and because phone numbers are easy to find. A data leak from 2022 exposed nearly 500 million WhatsApp phone numbers from 84 countries. With the data, bad actors can make fake identities online or take over other people's accounts to trick more victims into scams.

Let's look at different types of scams being run on the app so you know what you may be dealing with and what to do in case you are targeted.

Friends and family scam. Scammers pretend to be someone's child or a close friend and trick their parents, grandparents, or other family members into sending them money by claiming to be in an emergency. They might say that they lost their phone and need urgent help. This scam can also involve the use of deep fake voice messages. To learn more about this scam and its variations, you can read about it here.

The Wrong Number Scam. In this type of scam, the fraudster intentionally calls or texts your phone number and pretends to be someone else. They may engage you in a friendly conversation, ask personal questions to gather sensitive information or promote a fake investment opportunity.

Lottery, gifts and giveaways. Cybercriminals send you a message pretending to be from legitimate companies and claim you have won the lottery, a prize, or a giveaway. These messages usually contain a link to claim the supposed prize. However, the link leads to a fraudulent website that requests personal information, a fee for the prize, or credit card and bank details to confirm. Any data you type in falls into the scammer's hands.

WhatsApp Gold scam. You receive an invitation from an official-looking WhatsApp account to upgrade to WhatsApp Gold. The invitation may include a link that takes you to a spoofed website or infects your device with malware. Clicking on such a link can give the scammer access to your phone, allowing them to steal sensitive information and even message your contacts and scam them.

WhatsApp tech support scams. Scammers pose as WhatsApp support representatives and ask you to verify your identity by sending a verification code as an SMS or Telegram message. They may also offer to "help" by requesting sensitive information like credit card numbers or 6-digit WhatsApp codes. Once they have access to this information, they can hack into your WhatsApp account (link to how hackers take over your WhatsApp account) and gain access to your chats and other personal details.

Crypto scams. Scammers often try to build a friendly, possibly romantic, relationship with you before introducing a cryptocurrency scheme. If you fall for their trick and decide to invest, they will ask you to transfer money to a cryptocurrency trading platform. These attackers use fake e-wallets, and once you send money to these platforms, they will disappear, and the money will end up in the attacker's account.

Fake job offer or "task scam." You receive messages via WhatsApp from someone posing as a recruiter from a well-known company offering a job opportunity, even though you have never applied for such a position. The scammer promises lucrative projects, flexible working hours, and a generous salary paid through an encrypted wallet. Once you engage in a conversation with them, they start offering various tasks and claim you can earn money easily by completing them.

How to spot a WhatsApp scam

The most important piece of advice when it comes to avoiding these WhatsApp scams is to be wary of the messages received from unknown contacts and not reply to them. Scammers can be creative and persistent, and when they have enough information about you, they can become very convincing. For example, you may be tempted to find out more about a job offer when you are looking for a new one, to panic when you receive a message from your child asking for money, or to be happy you received a gift or coupon from your favorite brand.

No matter how different they are, scams have some common characteristics.

  • Unsolicited text messages from unfamiliar numbers
  • Messages urging immediate action
  • Requests for money or personal information
  • Messages with suspicious links or attachments

Before responding to any message on WhatsApp, take a moment to slow down and run through a mental checklist of the scam characteristics mentioned above to ensure that the message is safe and trustworthy. If unsure, you can call your child on their usual number or contact the company using the official website's contact details.

You can use Bitdefender Scamio, our AI scam detector. You can easily add it to your WhatsApp and check any messages you receive from unknown numbers.

All you have to do is scan the QR code below

Or click on Chat on WhatsApp with Scamio. Then you can send it text to analyze.

Then describe the scam details or copy texts, links, or QR codes in the chat box, and Scamio will carefully analyze the material you provide. It will let you know whether the message is safe or if there's a potential security threat.

It's a scam. Now what?

If you have identified a scam or scammer, there are two steps you can take to prevent them from deceiving other people:

1. Report them (not just block and delete). To report a scammer, open the chat with them and tap on the three dots at the bottom right corner of the screen. Select "View contact" and then click on "Report". Be sure to check the "Block and Delete" box as well.

WhatsApp will receive the last five messages sent to you by the person you reported. The scammer will not be notified that you have reported them. WhatsApp will also receive the reported group or user ID, information on when the message was sent, and the type of message sent (image, video, text, or other). This will help WhatsApp shut down these fraudulent accounts and prevent the scam from harming other users.

2. Share Bitdefender Scamio with others. If you want to help your dear ones stay safe from scams, tell them about this tool. Scamio is a free and easy-to-use tool that helps people stay safe from scams, also available on your web browser or Facebook Messenger. You don't need any technical knowledge or other Bitdefender products to use it. We created Scamio to help as many people as possible stay safe because scams, frauds, cons, and hacks are not showing any sign of slowing down.



Cristina POPOV

Cristina is a freelance writer and a mother of two living in Denmark. Her 15 years experience in communication includes developing content for tv, online, mobile apps, and a chatbot.

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