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WhatsApp scams – the various tactics

WhatsApp scams – the various tactics

Most smartphone users couldn’t imagine daily life without WhatsApp, so it’s no wonder that scammers want to exploit this opportunity. Almost all aspects of life, whether leisure time, childcare, or family affairs, are organized and discussed in groups.

Given all this, it’s no wonder WhatsApp is always the preferred target for scammers. Nowhere else is it as easy to get information and come into contact with people directly in their everyday conversations. But while most scams, like a bogus WhatsApp message saying you’ve won a €250 supermarket voucher, are now widely known about, there are enough WhatsApp users out there who are still getting tricked by these scams.

WhatsApp phishing

In the case of WhatsApp phishing attacks, victims receive an email asking them to pay a fee for WhatsApp – if they don’t, their account might get blocked. As they’re normally asked to pay a small fee of less than 99 euro cents, many users are far too easily inclined to complete the attached form and pay up. But what many don’t realize is that they’re giving away both their credit card number and the security code as well as a host of personal details – all for nothing – to scammers who then use this info to go on a spending spree.

Although WhatsApp has been free for all users since 2016, word doesn’t seem to have reached everyone. Like with any email you get from a stranger asking for money, you should always pay close attention to the wording. Any spelling or grammatical errors are a dead giveaway that something might be bogus. It’s also worth checking the sender’s logo and email address. When it doubt, first contact the company’s support team before sending any information let alone paying any invoice.

Supermarket voucher

Supermarket voucher scams are relatively harmless but no less dastardly. These have been doing the rounds on social networks and by text for years now, with the aim of getting hold of personal information and then either selling it on or using it for unsolicited advertising.

The scammers behind them are getting ever more cunning, with links to professional-looking websites that are so convincing it’s difficult for the non-technical among us to tell them apart from the real thing. Taking the German supermarket chain Edeka as an example the company’s anniversary was used as a reason to launch a new wave of scams involving fake vouchers. And is if a complete copy of the website wasn’t enough, a YouTube video of the company was even embedded in it.

It was virtually impossible to tell the fake site apart from Edeka’s actual website. While a URL like should set off alarm bells, many users don’t pay attention to the link address. If you’re ever asked to forward the message to 10 friends, you should at least be highly suspicious by this stage – after all, this is how chain letters typically work. Then at the end comes crunch time: You need to enter your address. For scammers, this is the name of the game: Harvesting your personal data so they can sell it for cash. The scam is relatively harmless if it’s only about getting hold of your address details – at worst, it’s annoying. However, supermarket vouchers can also be used to get you to download a specific app. And this is where things get risky again, as this is a fast-track route to ending up with malware getting on your smartphone.

If you ever receive a message like that, just ignore and delete it.

Fake apps

Sadly, scammers are still managing to get their apps on the app stores. They upload a copy of an app to them, such as WhatsApp, with this clone often featuring “Update” in the name. This leads clueless users to assume that a newer version is available, so they download it. At first glance, everything looks the same, but when trying to set up your account all sorts of data and information are passed on behind the scenes. Without realizing it, users end up revealing loads about themselves.

So, before downloading anything from an app store be sure to check out the developer as well as read the comments. In most cases, other users have already got their fingers burned using the app – and they’re very vocal about this. On top of this, check out the developer’s website or ask to see if an app update is available or even if a completely new version has been uploaded to the app store.

Even with apps you use on a daily basis, it’s worthwhile staying alert to these dangers and keeping an eye on what information you share with whom. As a general rule, you should question any unexpected payment request notifications or messages saying you’ve won a prize. If you’re ever unsure, the first thing to do is ask the support team. This will save you a lot of hassle further down the line.

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Avira, a company with over 100 million customers and more than 500 employees, is a worldwide leading supplier of self-developed security solutions for professional and private use. With more than 25 years of experience, the company is a pioneer in its field.