Large community and religious WhatsApp groups are being targeted by scammers who infiltrate these groups to deceive their members into sending them money. Action Fraud confirm they have received 268 reports since January this year.
The fraud often begins when a member of the group receives a WhatsApp audio call from the fraudster, pretending, or claiming, to be a member of the group. This is done in order to gain the individual’s trust, and often the scammer will use a false profile picture and / or display name, so at first glance it would appear to be a genuine member of the group.
The fraudster will then call the victim and say they are sending a one-time passcode which will allow them to join an upcoming video call for group members. The scammer then asks the victim to share this passcode with them so they can be “registered” for the video call. What’s really happening is that the scammer is asking for a registration code to register the victim’s WhatsApp account to a new device where they then “port” their WhatsApp profile over.
Once the fraudster has access to the victim’s WhatsApp account, they will enable two-step verification which makes it impossible for the victim to access their account. The scammer will then message other members of the group, or friends and family in the victim’s contacts, asking them to transfer money urgently as they are in desperate need of help.
What can you do to avoid being a victim?
- Never share your account’s two-factor authentication (2FA) code (that’s the six digit code you receive via SMS).
- Set up two-step verification to give an extra layer of protection to your account.
Tap Settings > Account >Two-step verification > Enable.
- THINK. CALL. If a family member or friend makes an unusual request on WhatsApp, always call the person to confirm their identity.
- You can report spam messages or block a sender within WhatsApp. Press and hold on the message bubble, select ‘Report’ and then follow the instructions.
If you have been a victim of fraud or cybercrime, report it at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040. In Scotland, victims of fraud and cybercrime should report to Police Scotland on 101.
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