A text or WhatsApp message from a “friend in need” asking for money or personal information could be a scam, warns a new awareness campaign.
More than half (59%) of people have received or know someone who has received a message-based scam in the past year, according to a new awareness campaign that WhatsApp launched in partnership with National Trading Standards.
The stop. Think. Call. “The campaign aims to educate people on how to protect themselves and their WhatsApp accounts from message-based fraud.
Message-based scams can include text messages as well as those received through WhatsApp.
The campaign urges people to:
– Stop: take your time before answering. Make sure your WhatsApp two-step verification is enabled to protect your account, that you are happy with your privacy settings.
– Do you think: does this request make sense? Are you asking for money? Remember, scammers take advantage of people’s friendliness, trust and helpfulness.
– Call: Make sure they are really your friend or family member by calling them directly or asking them to share a voice memo. Only when you are 100% sure that the request is from someone you know and trust should you consider it. If it turns out to be wrong, report it to Action Fraud.
Louise Baxter, fraud team leader for National Trading Standards and Friends Against Scams, said reports of “friends in need” scams have increased in recent months.
She said, “Scammers send messages that appear to be from a friend or family member asking for personal information, money, or a six-digit PIN.
“The messages are sent from your friends’ compromised accounts, making them look like they were from someone you know or from an unfamiliar number claiming to be a friend who lost their phone or his Account was ‘locked out’. This type of scam is particularly cruel because it takes advantage of our kindness and our desire to help friends and family. “
The campaign says research has shown that people under the age of 34 are significantly more likely to prefer text-based communication over the phone.
Kathryn Harnett, Policy Manager at WhatsApp said, “WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption to protect our users’ personal messages, but we want to remind people that we all have a role to play in the security of our accounts by being vigilant remain threat from scammers.
“We advise all users never to give their six-digit PIN code to anyone, even friends or family, and we recommend that all users set up a two-step verification process for extra security.
“If you get a suspicious message (even if you think you know who it came from), calling or requesting a voice memo is the fastest, easiest way to see who you are. A friend in need is a friend who is worth calling. “
Citizens Advice Scams Action also supports the campaign as there has been an increase in messaging scams over the past year, including scams with friends in need such as:
– A scammer claiming to be a friend stuck abroad who had to raise hundreds of pounds to get home. When the person said they couldn’t help, they were blocked.
– A parent who noticed a scammer pretending to be their son asking for money on WhatsApp. They called their son to look and discovered it was a scam.
– A parent who allegedly received a WhatsApp message from their daughter saying they need to change her number. They went on to ask for help paying a bill, but the parents realized it was a scam.
Citizens Advice Scams Action encourages anyone who suspects they may be attacked to visit their website for help with online scams.
Friends Against Scams offers free online training courses to empower people to take a stand against scams, spot different types of scams, and provide instructions on how to report them.
The campaign also recruits “scammers,” which are parliamentarians, high-ranking officials or someone who uses their influence to raise awareness of scammers at the national level.
Scambassador Joel Dommett said, “Just remember to stop. Think. Call. If you receive unusual news, you can save a lot of money and inconvenience in the long run. “