Watch out for the WhatsApp scam

WhatsApp is one of the most popular apps around and across the globe, millions of people use the service. However, if you’re one of them, you now need to be on your guard, as there is a scam floating around that targets users.

Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting centre, has issued a warning to Brits about criminals who are sending messages claiming to be from WhatsApp. People are receiving texts and emails stating their subscription to WhatsApp is ending soon and they must re-subscribe to continue using the app. They’re then asked to sign-in to a customer portal and once there, submit bank details.

WhatsApp has been free for users since 2016, when Facebook took over the company and abolished the 99p annual fee. According to Action Fraud, while new users are likely to ignore the messages being sent by fraudsters, those who remember paying may be duped into submitting their details.

What to do if you receive a message or text from WhatsApp

If you receive a message saying your WhatsApp subscription is about to expire, do not click on any of the links. Delete the mail and report it to Action Fraud.

If you have accidentally clicked one of the links, run antivirus software immediately to ensure the device hasn’t been infected with any malware.

Top tips for staying safe when using a mobile app

To help keep your identity safe when using a mobile app, there are a few simple things you can do.

  1. Be suspicious of any unexpected emails and texts. If it doesn’t look right, don’t open it and don’t click on anything within the message. Things like odd looking links, lots of spelling mistakes/errors and funny sender addresses can be big giveaways that a message isn’t what it seems.
  2. Make sure you run any updates. These fix any vulnerabilities there may be in the app, meaning it’s harder for a criminal to misuse it and steal your details.
  3. Always purchase an app from an app store. For Apple users, this is The App Store and for Android, it’s Google Play. An app has to pass through a review process before it can appear in these stores, so the chance of it being malicious is much smaller.
  4. Look at the permissions an app is asking for and the privacy policy. When you’re in the process of downloading an app, you can see if they’re asking for access to things like your location or the ability to read your SD card. You will also see how they’re intending to use your data in the privacy policy. Think if this information is really necessary for the app to work and if it isn’t, you may want to avoid it.
  5. Be smart on the phone. If you receive a phone call claiming to be from an app provider, be suspicious. As a rule of thumb, if you get a call from someone and they ask for personal details, don’t give them out.
  6. Make sure you use a secure Wi-Fi connection. If you’re using an app on the go and want to connect to Wi-Fi, you need to make sure the connection is secure, as an insecure connection can be hacked by fraudsters.

To help monitor for identity theft and fraud, it’s important to regularly check your credit report too. After all, we’ve all heard stories of someone who is security conscious but still fell victim to fraud.

If you see any searches you don’t recognise (and aren’t from the parent company of an organisation you expected to run a search) or a new unexpected financial account, this could be a sign of fraud.