WhatsApp is popular for a reason – free messaging that works over Wi-Fi and can reach people all around the world definitely beats your typical texting plan. But unfortunately, the popularity of this app has attracted countless scammers. From investment scams to fake updates, WhatsApp users everywhere are targets for cyber criminals. Read on to learn about popular WhatsApp scams, and learn how to keep yourself safe from them.
How to avoid fake versions of WhatsApp
To ensure you install and use only the authentic version of WhatsApp, never download and install WhatsApp from a link sent to you. For any mobile platform device, only download from the approved App store (Google Play, Apple’s App Store, etc.). If you are unsure whether the version you are currently using on your phone is legitimate, remove the app and then download it from the approved App store.
This scam is nothing more than a fake voicemail — all you have to do is click!
Those targeted by this scam receive a message with the subject line, “Incoming Voice Message”. Victims only need to click for hackers to have access to their personal information, and even potentially lock them out of their own phones!
WhatsApp Gold edition
The WhatsApp Gold edition is a scam that has been pushed through social media networks. It’s a fake premium version that allegedly has fancy emoticons and custom backgrounds.
But once you sign up for this fake upgrade, you’ll be charged up to 40 dollars per month. An updated version of this scam called “WhatsApp Elegant Gold” is also making the rounds. It leads users to a web page that asks for a phone number in order to update to a newer, “better” edition of WhatsApp.
There are actually a number of different applications that help people spy on others through WhatsApp. The sad reality is, if you Google “WhatsApp Spy”, you’ll get a slew of articles telling you how to spy on other people, instead of how to protect yourself against this clear invasion of privacy.
However, there’s a twist: the majority of these “spy apps” are actually scams that load malware onto the would-be-spy’s phone. So if you are tempted to use one of these apps yourself, be warned that you might get what you deserve!
$500 Starbucks gift card
There’s a scam out there that ask you to fill out survey for a $500 Starbucks gift card, alleging that it’s sponsored by Starbucks.
A similar scam exists for McDonald’s, IKEA, H&M, KFC, 7-Eleven, and Zara, as well as a number of other big companies. These scams come in a number of different languages as well, putting a large demographic at risk. This scam is just another way to steal your information, which is much more insidious than giving you false hope.
Scammers have been promoting and recommending stocks to WhatsApp users. The message, which often recommends people to invest in Avra Inc., claims that the stock will double or triple in a few days. These scammers are likely trying to raise the value of the stock in what’s called a “pump and dump” — raising the value so they can pull out their investments at a peak price.
How to identify a WhatsApp scam
WhatsApp scams are prevalent, but that shouldn’t scare you away from using this useful and fun application. WhatsApp enables people from around the world to communicate with each other for free, and that’s powerful. Just consider the following information to prevent yourself from being a victim of a scam:
1. Be skeptical of any message from WhatsApp
One clear giveaway that you’re being targeted for a scam is when WhatsApp directly contacts you through the app for any reason. This isn’t something WhatsApp ever does, so if you see a convincing direct message from the app itself, know that it’s probably fake. As WhatsApp states on its website, “we do not use WhatsApp to contact you.”
2. Beware of messages soliciting personal information
In general, WhatsApp (and legitimate apps) do not randomly solicit personal information. If you are unsure if a request is legitimate or not, you can always go to the WhatsApp website and send an email to a customer service representative. If the messaging app you are using does not have contact details for a customer service representative, consult other users for a report on typical behavior.
3. You’re probably not a winner
Unless you directly entered a contest that you know isn’t fraudulent, it’s a scam. It’s a tempting scam to believe, but you didn’t win $500 for doing nothing. Not even filling out a survey. As the saying goes, “if it seems to good to be true, it probably is”.
4. Never share your MAC or IMEI address
If you have an Android, you have a IMEI number (international mobile equipment identity), and if you have an iPhone, you also have a MAC (media access control) address. Each WhatsApp account is linked directly to a phone through this special number, so it effectively acts as a password for your account. If a hacker has your phone number and MAC or IMEI, they can easily hack into your account.
Remember, scams can happen to the most careful among us when we have a lapse in judgement. Get anti-malware for your phone and research your messaging app’s mode of communication with its users. It doesn’t mean you can’t use the latest and greatest apps, it just means you need to be prepared for the worst case situation — after all, an ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure.
If you want to know more about previous WhatsApp scams and how you can protect yourself, see other WhatsApp blogs we’ve published.
Have a great, scam-free day!