WhatsApp is a great way to keep in touch with far off friends and relatives but it seems like every time you turn around, there’s another scam running rampant on it. Given the fact that WhatsApp has over one billion users, it only makes sense that hackers and scammers are always on the lookout for new and interesting ways to exploit the platform. And with the holiday season right around the corner, scammers are just waiting to break out the very best in their rotten tool set to cash in on that generous holiday feeling. The sad reality is that because users repeatedly fall their tricks, the scoundrel-y scammers are encouraged to keep going.
A Scammer’s Digital Playground
Case in point, when WhatsApp began rolling out their the long-anticipated video calling feature last week, it wasn’t long before the scams started circulating. In fact you might have gotten a bogus video calling feature message even before the actual feature hit your device. Posing as a message inside an existing thread the “invitation” read:
“You’re invited to try whatsapp video calling feature.
Activate at: ( bogus link)
Only people with the invitation can enable the feature”
But what really happened when a user clicked the link is that the device got a face full of malware. Nothing too surprising here, but coupled with the fact that everybody was already expecting to see the new feature on their own WhatsApp, you can understand how this particular scam was able to reel in more than a few unsuspecting victims.
WhatsApp has issued a statement that they will not be, nor have them been rolling out the feature via a link inside a message. Instead they will be granting access to users in a staged manner and all you need to do is sit tight and wait patiently for your device to get it.
What’s That??? It’s Another WhatsApp Scam!
Meanwhile, there are plenty of other WhatsApp scams circulating all the time. Some are persistent and hang around for a while. Others make their rounds for a bit and then lay low until people forget about them, only to resurface later with a vengeance. Here are a few more to be aware of:
WhatsApp Gold – Surfacing earlier this year, WhatsApp Gold purported to grant users access to premium features like video chats, new emojis, new backgrounds, the ability to send hundreds of pictures at a time and most enticing of all, the ability to delete already-sent messages. WhatsApp (the real one) users received a link promising access to the version “used only by big celebrities” but what victims really got was a fee-based messaging service, where users were charged $1.85 per text message!
WhatsApp Spy – If you ever wanted to see what your contacts are saying about you, WhatsApp Spy just isn’t the best way to go about it. Posing as a legitimate app, WhatsApp Spy asks users to download a link and enter in a phone number to be “spied on”, claiming that it will send a file with copies of all of the offender’s chats for you to sift through. But again, all that’s really happening here is that the victim is getting signed up to a fee-based SMS service (though honestly, in this case, we’re having a hard time feeling bad for the victim, you know the one who really wanted to spy on his or her friends, but we digress).
Vouchers/Giftcards via WhatsApp – Here is a perfect example of a scam that surges around this time of year on the platform. Just fill out a form or survey and get a voucher or gift card to your favorite store. The only catch here is that it’s completely fake. The link in the survey leads to a spoofed version of the store in question. To get the voucher, the user enters their personal data including email, phone numbers and other identifying information. The collected information is used in spam campaigns.
WhatsApp Voicemail – Let’s say you get an email (yes, an email) stating that you have a few missed WhatsApp calls and you can listen to them just by clicking a link in the email. Would you hit that link to find out what you might have missed? If you answered in the affirmative, what you’re missing the most is grey matter. By clicking the link, users are directed to bogus pharmacy sites harboring malware. It should be fairly obvious that WhatsApp doesn’t send any emails, but for some reason this is one tactic that users fall for repeatedly.
Back to the current video calling scam, just keep in mind that if you get an invite, it’s not the real deal. Don’t fret too much if you haven’t gotten access to the new video feature, you’ll get yours soon. Meanwhile, remember that scams are more prevalent at this time of year on all social media platforms. Your best bet to stay safe? Use your head at all times and think before you click.