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Security & privacy

A popular phone scam is back as a convincing text from a ‘friend’

Scams are becoming more brazen the closer we get to the full-blown holiday season. Putting a new twist on an old scam seems the most common method, as thousands of people still get fooled. Tap or click here to see why this Microsoft email isn’t a scam.

WhatsApp has a fraud problem, so much so that the company has issued several warnings on it and danger signs to look out for. Of all the tricks employed by criminals, the friend in need scam is steadily getting worse.

That is why the messaging service launched the Stop. Think. Call campaign. Keep reading to find out how you can protect yourself.

Here’s the backstory

You probably wouldn’t think twice about helping a friend in need, and that is precisely what scammers are hoping for. Scammers rely on your swift actions to overlook crucial details by creating a sense of urgency and panic.

This scam is very effective, and thousands of people have fallen victim to it. It starts with the thief hacking into a friend or family members’ WhatsApp account and sending you a message from it. They explain that they are stuck somewhere overseas or in an emergency.

Naturally, they need some money to get out of their pickle and ask you to help them. It’s totally bogus, of course. Not only will you not be helping a friend, but you’ll also be out of whatever cash you send.

You might also have very little recourse when you realize you’ve been scammed as the person who asked for the money disappears. And the money is usually requested in gift cards or wire transfers, so there isn’t an avenue to get it back.

There have been several variations on this scam, ranging from a son asking for financial help to a friend who supposedly changed their phone number.

What you can do about it

You might be more than willing to help a friend or family member in need, but you must be cautious at the same time. Here is how to handle requests for money through WhatsApp:

  • The first thing that WhatsApp suggests is that you stop to take a moment after receiving such a message. Don’t panic or act hastily, as that is what the scammers are bargaining on.
  • Next, try to call the person asking for money through their phone number and have a conversation. Don’t just trust a message. You have to verify the request is really from the person claiming to be a friend or family member.
  • Never reply to a scam message or to someone that you don’t know. Also, don’t download attachments or click links sent through email or WhatsApp. They could be malicious and infect your device with malware.

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