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How to spot a WhatsApp scam

Scammers can even find you on WhatsApp now (Image: Shutterstock)
Scammers can even find you on WhatsApp now (Image: Shutterstock)

WhatsApp has become one of the biggest messenger apps in the world, with more than 30 million people using it in the UK alone. So it’s not a surprise that fake messages and dodgy links have started floating around on it.

But don’t turn your back on the app just yet. Protect yourself by keeping an eye out for these common WhatsApp scams.

Impersonating a family member

Your sibling just messaged you from a new number. They lost their phone, and now they need you to transfer someone a bit of money for them...

Don’t be too quick to accept these kinds of requests, even if they (seemingly) come from family.

Scammers will often try this one, claiming to be your child/sibling/spouse and spinning a story about losing their phone and this being their new number. Next there’ll be a request to send money somewhere for them, promising to ‘pay you back tomorrow’.

It plays on your desire to help out a loved one, but you should always be wary with unknown numbers.

In the past these messages have usually come from a human trying to impersonate someone, so you should notice the strange language being used. But be warned, AI might soon make them even harder to spot. A program could scrape social media profiles and mimic someone’s style of text-talk perfectly, so always give the person a quick call to be sure you’re actually talking to them.

‘You’ve won!’

If you ever receive a message from a new number saying you’ve won a competition, we've got some bad news: it's probably a scam, especially if they ask you to click on a link to claim your prize. An alternative version is a too-good-to-be-true job offer.

You might also be asked to reply with your address or some other details. It’s incredibly unlikely a company will choose you as the winner of a random competition and share the news with you via WhatsApp, so don’t share any personal info or click on any links from these types of messages.

Complete this survey for a gift

Another message you might receive from an unknown number. You’ll be promised a great reward if you just ‘click on the link below and complete a quick survey’.

Just like the competition scam above, it’s a good rule of thumb to never click on links you’re sent by numbers you don’t know. They’re usually scams.

Fake news

This one isn’t really a scam, but it’s still something to be wary of. Your friend might forward you a message or voice note with some ‘insider’ news. These types of messages are typically shared during times of uncertainty – you might have seen one in the first few weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic claiming the army was about the take control of London or that various celebrities or politicians had died.

You should only ever get your news from trusted and reputable sources, not from a message originally composed by your friend’s cousin’s boyfriend’s boss’s friend. Just ignore these sorts of messages and, please, don’t forward them on to anyone else!


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