WhatsApp is the go-to social media platform for around 23 million people in South Africa, and offers incredible possibilities for connecting with others. But, with such a massive user base, it’s essential to be aware of the potential for WhatsApp scams lurking around.
Types of WhatsApp Scams to be Aware of
Although WhatsApp has built-in security features, they’re not guaranteed to protect you from scammers. Furthermore, most scams in South Africa are social engineering scams which means that they aim to exploit a person’s trust to steal money and confidential information for subsequent crimes. This type of scam isn’t easy to spot, making anyone a potential victim.
Here are a few of the most common types of WhatsApp scams for you to be on the lookout for:
Scammers craft a believable story, pretending to be someone the victim would be inclined to trust, such as a boss, colleague, or service provider. Some fraudsters even impersonate a friend or loved one by researching the target to make their story believable. They then ask for sensitive information or money.
These messages may ask the victim to download malware designed to collect essential data from their device that the imposter can then use for identity theft or to carry out further malicious actions.
Family or friends asking for money from a different number.
Con artists entice victims with valuable items such as a gift, discount or prize in exchange for sensitive information or actions like clicking on a link or downloading a file. These messages can also request upfront payment to claim the reward, but it never materialises. Following these actions can compromise security and potentially lead to identity fraud or financial loss.
Lottery or investment scams ask users to transfer money into fraudulent accounts in return for their winnings or high returns on their investments.
Swindlers pose as trusted entities, such as banks, service providers, or well-known brands, to get personal details like usernames, passwords, credit card details, or other sensitive data.
These messages often include fear-inducing strategies and appear to be time-sensitive, creating a sense of urgency and prompting the victim to take immediate action. These messages often contain links that direct recipients to fake websites that closely resemble legitimate ones, further deceiving them into entering their details.
Messages from well-known brands demanding you to download fake antivirus software or pay an urgent fee to avoid legal consequences.
How to Stay Safe Online
- Be aware of the types of Whatsapp scams circulating that could land in your chat inbox, and tell the people around you so that they can stay informed too.
- Don’t click on links or download attachments in messages or groups where you don’t know the people.
- If you receive a message from an unknown number, verify who they say they are by phoning them or messaging them on another platform.
- Don’t share confidential data such as bank account details, passwords, or other sensitive information, even if the source appears to be trusted.
- Enable Whatsapp’s two-step verification to add extra security to your account. To do this, open Whatsapp > Settings > Account > Two-step verification.
- Keep your device’s software and Whatsapp updated; the latest versions often include security fixes.
- Report peculiar activity to Whatsapp so that they can shut the account down. To do this, open the chat > Contact name > Report contact >Block contact.
- If you’ve been scammed, report it to the authorities with all the evidence you have, including the scammer’s contact details and message.
- Remember, if something looks suspicious, it probably is. Stay vigilant!
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