WhatsApp, profile images in danger: here’s why

On WhatsApp, the profile image scam is back: here's what it is and how to defend yourself

Delete your WhatsApp profile image or replace it with a fantasy photo. This is not meant to be an alarm, but a piece of advice. In these days of vacation have begun again the scams that use the profile pictures of your friends to steal a few tens of euros from your bank account. We have also been victims of this scam, but we have been able to recognize the scam and we have unmasked the crook.

How do these scams work? This is a rather ingenious scam that is very difficult to detect. In order to find out the number and friends of the person they want to steal the digital identity from, the scammers use social engineering techniques that are very time-consuming and costly. Once they have obtained all of a person's information, they use his WhatsApp profile picture to try to steal money from his relatives or friends. With the excuse of having run out of money on vacation, in most cases they soften the interlocutor who immediately sends him a few tens of euros to be able to return to Italy or home.

This is not the first time we talk about this scam, and probably it will not be the last either. But we want to keep the focus on one of the most difficult scams to recognize, especially by older people who are still not very familiar with the world of social networks and WhatsApp.

Why you should change your WhatsApp profile picture

WhatsApp allows any user to save the profile picture of contacts in their address book on their PC or smartphone. Just tap on the image of a WhatsApp contact to be able to save it without requiring any permission. The application's technicians have never intervened to change this option, without thinking about the possible consequences or illegal use

Use that hackers have thought of, who have devised a scam to use the WhatsApp profile picture to their advantage. A simple but extremely effective scam. How does the scam work? First of all you have to study the victim: he must be popular, have many friends, but above all he must be on vacation. Once you have chosen the victim, you save his WhatsApp profile image and use it to create a new profile with a new number. At this point, you start to contact all his friends: in the message you explain the reasons why you are writing from a different phone number than usual and you ask for financial help because you have been robbed on vacation and do not have the money to return. And you ask for a PayPal recharge to get the money immediately, which will be returned when you return. A kind-hearted person, reading such dramatic words, does not think that it could be a scam and sends the requested money. Logically, once the deposit is made, the person disappears from WhatsApp and you can no longer contact him.

How to defend yourself from WhatsApp scam

There is a very simple way to defend yourself from this type of scam: when you are contacted for the request of money, send a message even to the old phone number of the person. And see if they respond to you. If so, it means that there has been an identity theft that you should immediately report to the competent authorities.

To put a stop to this scam, WhatsApp has announced that it will soon implement a new feature that will no longer allow you to download your profile picture. It is not known, however, when the feature will be released.

Also, in the settings of your account you can restrict the viewing of your profile picture to friends only. To do this, you need to go into WhatsApp settings, hit Account and then Privacy. Select the "Profile Picture" item and choose the "My Contacts" option.