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Messaging app scam fools people into clicking by threatening to charge per message

Messaging app scam fools people into clicking by threatening to charge per message
Image courtesy of Dreamstime.com

Cybercriminals had a banner year in 2016. Ransomware attacks really exploded last year and became the number one digital threat.

We also witnessed our share of data breaches and phishing scams. Now, we're seeing an old fashioned hoax going around a couple popular messaging services.

There is a scam message being passed around claiming that both WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger will start charging users to send messages.

Messaging services hoax

What's happening is, people who use Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp are being told if they don't send this message to other users, they will have to begin paying to use the service. Here is what the message says:

"From Saturday morning whatsapp will become chargeable. If you have at least 10 contacts send them this message. In this way we will see that you are an avid user and your logo will become blue and will remain free. (As discussed in the paper today. Whatsapp will cost 0.01ps (about one penny in the U.S.) per message. Send this message to 10 people. When you do the light will turn blue otherwise whatsapp will activate billing."

That's the message you'll see on WhatsApp. The one on Facebook Messenger is the same message, with Facebook replacing WhatsApp in its wording.

If you get this message, delete it. It is NOT true and you will not start being charged for sending messages.

As you can see, there are issues with this message that should tip you off that it's a hoax.

First, it's supposedly from WhatsApp itself, yet it doesn't spell it properly. It reads "whatsapp" instead of WhatsApp in the first sentence and Whatsapp later on. This would never happen in a legitimate message from the company.

Then there are grammatical errors that would never be sent by a legitimate source. These are typical problems found in scam messages.

The good news with this hoax is, it doesn't appear to present any danger at this time. It's just a time-consuming annoyance.

In many scams, the user's gadget could be infected after clicking on a malicious link within the message. This could result in numerous problems including phishing scams, or ransomware to name a couple. Luckily, that's not the case here.

What you should do if you receive a hoax message

This isn't the first scam to make its way around WhatsApp and Facebook. We recently told you about corrupt files opening the door for hackers to steal your bank details through WhatsApp.

The type of hoax that we're telling you about today seems to pop up on messaging sites frequently. So much so that WhatsApp has instructions on how to handle them on its site. Here is what you should do if you receive one of these messages:

  • Block the sender of the message
  • Disregard the message
  • Delete the message
  • Never forward these messages - this will prevent exposing your contacts to potential harm

Always stay vigilant when it comes to messages from someone that you don't know. And be on the lookout for errors in messages that are supposedly from the company itself.

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