WhatsApp scams, what are they and how to defend yourself

WhatsApp is the favorite target of scammers: every day thousands of users are scammed or download malware and viruses

Scams on WhatsApp are a real social plague. With more than a billion active users every month, WhatsApp is the most used application on your smartphone and for this reason it has become the preferred tool for hackers to spread their scams.

Every day we receive at least one message that tries to cheat us: in some cases they offer us a discount coupon to use in a shopping mall or warn us that WhatsApp in the coming months will become fee-based. Logically, these are scams designed to hit the most defenseless users who do not have the skills to recognize the messages sent by hackers. Scammers over the years have evolved along with technology: the three-card game played on street corners is much less profitable than a phishing message on WhatsApp.

In addition, scams on the instant messaging application have become more and more user-friendly. The text of the messages is based on the characteristics and habits of the person: it is no longer the time of e-mails from Nigerian Princes ready to do anything to marry you, now the scams are concocted following news events and offering coupons that seem true. But to recognize if it is a scam, all it takes is a bit of attention: scams on WhatsApp have some common traits that allow you to recognize them. Defending yourself against scams is quite simple, you just need to be crafty.

The voice message scam

WhatsApp has now introduced voice calls since 2015. The hackers immediately took advantage of the new feature to prepare a fairly simple cyber scam. They sent an email to users alerting them that there was a new voice message on the app, as if it were a kind of voicemail, and invited them to press on a link. In reality, behind the URL there was a ransomware that locked the PC and demanded a ransom to remove the restriction. After the success of the first months, the scam had disappeared, but lately it has reappeared and is again making victims. Hackers have exploited the novelty of video calls to set a trap for users who do not know how to recognize the malicious links. To recognize the WhatsApp scam is very simple: the instant messaging application does not send emails to listen to messages, at most it communicates it via notifications.

The WhatsApp pay scam

"Dear user, from next week each message sent on WhatsApp will cost €0.01, to not pay you need to confirm your account by pressing on this link." A message-scam that returns continuously on WhatsApp and that has made dozens of victims, despite over and over again the staff of the application has warned users of the scam. As soon as you click on the link you will download a virus on your smartphone that spies on the movements of the user. Recognizing the scam is very simple: WhatsApp is free and will remain so until the application gives a different communication. Any other message from friends or strangers is a virus.

The coupon scam

Another evergreen is the coupon scam. Hackers exploit the name of famous commercial chains (Ikea, Eurospin) to send messages with a discount coupon inside. The strategy is always the same "Dear user, to receive a discount of xxx euros to spend in stores xxx (name of the commercial chain), press on the link". Immediately after pressing on the URL, you become the victim of a phishing message. We will end up with a virus on our smartphone that will try to monitor our habits. Remember, big companies do not offer coupons on WhatsApp.

The WhatsApp Gold scam

There are no "premium" versions of WhatsApp, all the messages received with the possibility of downloading WhatsApp Gold to receive additional features, are actually viruses. The scam is very simple, hackers send a message inviting you to download WhatsApp Gold from a store parallel to the Google one. Logically, this is a virus that will infect your smartphone.