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WhatsApp friend in need scam is doing the rounds: Here is what it is and how to stay safe

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Highlights:

  • WhatsApp warns about new ‘friend in need’ scams.
  • The ‘Stop. Think. Call’ campaign aims to help educate people on how to protect themselves and their WhatsApp account from message-based scams.
  • WhatsApp message from a ‘friend in need’ asking for money or personal information could be a scammer

In today’s time, as the world is becoming increasingly digital and technology is increasing, the cases of cybercrime and digital fraud are also increasing. Every day there are many such messages on someone’s phone or Whatsapp, which first lure you with money, but later it turns out that you have been a victim of such a fraud, which you cannot even detect.

A new scam called ‘friend in need’ is taking place on Facebook’s messaging app WhatsApp. In this scam, WhatsApp users are receiving messages from their friends saying they need their help. The messages could either be sent from compromised accounts of friends or from an unknown number claiming to be a friend who has lost their phone or been ‘locked out’ of their account.

These kinds of scams are particularly cruel as they prey on our kindness and desire to help friends and family. Toni Parker, a 53-year-old nurse, and mum of four fell victim to the scam. She believed she was talking to her eldest son and was conned out of £2,500.

In short, this is how they work:

  1. The scammer poses as a friend who has been stuck abroad and urgently needs hundreds of pounds to get home.
  2. Scammer poses as a son asking for money.
  3. The scammer poses as a daughter saying they’ve had to change their phone number. Then they ask for help paying a bill.

There are, of course, many variations on these, and the – “WhatsApp’s new Stop- Think- Call” campaign aims to increase awareness of these scams.

The campaign urges people to:

Stop: Take time before you respond. Make sure your WhatsApp two-step verification is switched on to protect your account, that you are happy with your privacy settings.

Think: Does this request make sense? Are they asking for money? Remember that scammers prey on people’s kindness, trust, and willingness to help.

Call: Verify that it really is your friend or family member by calling them directly, or asking them to share a voice note. Only when you are 100% sure the request is from someone you know and trust, should you consider it. If it turns out to be untrue, report it to Action Fraud.

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