Social networking and messaging apps have revolutionized the way we communicate. In the past decade, these platforms have become ubiquitous, with billions of users around the world relying on them for personal and professional communication.
Some of the most popular social networking and messaging apps include Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Telegram. These apps allow users to stay connected with friends and family, share photos and videos, and send messages instantly. They also offer a variety of features that make it easy to organize and manage conversations.
The rise of social networking and messaging apps has had a profound impact on the way we communicate. These apps have made it easier than ever to stay connected with friends and family, regardless of where they are in the world. They have also made it easier to share information and ideas, and to build relationships with people who share our interests.
As social networking and messaging apps continue to evolve, they are likely to play an even greater role in our lives. These apps are already changing the way we communicate, and it is likely that they will continue to do so in the years to come.
Recently, the Communications and Digital Ministry’s warning about scammers phishing Telegram users with fake bank websites highlighted the ongoing need for caution when using social networking and messaging apps.
It’s important to remain vigilant against cybercriminals who seek to exploit vulnerabilities in these platforms to gain access to personal and financial information.
A New Wave of WhatsApp Scams
Lately, a new wave of WhatsApp scams has hit Singapore. With more and more people using the messaging app every day, scammers are finding new and creative ways to take advantage of unsuspecting victims.
In Singapore, there have been various instances of WhatsApp scams, including some recent ones. The Singapore Police Force cautioned the public in January 2021 about new versions of scams that involved taking over WhatsApp accounts. To prevent unauthorized access to accounts, one of the recommendations given by the police was to enable two-step verification in WhatsApp.
Furthermore, the police released another advisory in March 2021, warning about banking-related phishing scams that involved compromised WhatsApp accounts. According to reports, scammers were taking over WhatsApp accounts and sending phishing messages to their contacts, soliciting personal information and banking details.
Although the report did not mention WhatsApp specifically, job scams were reported to have increased significantly in the first half of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020. It is possible that scammers were using the messaging app to reach potential victims.
In this article, we will take a look at the different types of WhatsApp scams that are on the rise in Singapore and what you can do to protect yourself.
The Most Popular WhatsApp Scams in 2023
1. Fake messages about job offers
One of the most recent scams is the fake job offer scam. The scammers pose as employers, contacting potential victims and offering them lucrative job opportunities in exchange for a fee or personal information.
They will then ask for personal information such as your name, address, and contact details. They may even ask you to pay a fee for the job or training materials. If you receive a message like this, be cautious and do some research on the company before giving out any personal information.
Recently, a woman in Kuantan was duped of RM89,000 in a WhatsApp job scam. In another instance, a Malaysian student lost RM5,500 to scammers who disguised themselves as a digital marketing agency and offered her a job.
These scams are not limited to Singapore. A WhatsApp scam has been reported in other parts of the world as well. The scam is designed to trick job seekers into paying for training or providing personal information.
In the pursuit of finding employment, it is crucial for job seekers to exercise caution and vigilance against these fraudulent schemes. It is highly recommended that job seekers verify the authenticity of the job opportunity and the company presenting it. They must also remain cautious of any requests for personal information or payment.
Should you happen to receive a job offer through any medium, particularly WhatsApp, and it appears to be too promising, always keep in mind that it may be too good to be true.
2. WhatsApp voice or video call scams
Recently, there have been reports of a new WhatsApp scam involving hoax calls from international numbers. The calls are often made using international numbers and are used to trick unsuspecting victims into giving away personal information or money.
If you believe you may have been a victim of a WhatsApp scam, you can report it to WhatsApp by following the appropriate steps. For suspicious contact numbers, you can report them to WhatsApp by finding their account information and selecting “Report Contact”. Staying vigilant and informed is the key to protecting yourself from WhatsApp scams.
3. Fake messages about lottery or prize winnings
Fake lottery WhatsApp messages are a common type of scam that is used to trick people into providing personal information or paying fees. Scammers will send you a message claiming that you have won a prize or lottery. They will then ask you to pay a fee or provide personal information to claim the prize.
Once the recipient clicks on the link provided in the message, they are directed to a website or survey page where they will be asked to provide personal information or pay a fee to claim their prize. In some cases, the scammer may also ask for bank account or credit card information to “process” the prize money.
It is important to note that legitimate lotteries and prize winnings do not require individuals to pay a fee to claim their rewards, nor do they ask for personal information like bank account or credit card details.
If you receive a message claiming that you have won a lottery or prize and need to provide personal information or pay a fee to claim your reward, it is most likely a scam. It is best to delete the message and not engage with the scammer.
To avoid falling victim to these scams, it is important to be cautious when receiving unsolicited messages and to always verify the authenticity of the sender and the offer. Additionally, never provide personal information or pay a fee unless you are absolutely sure of the legitimacy of the request.
4. Investment scams
Scammers may also try to lure you into investment scams. They may promise high returns on your investment or offer insider information about a company.
Investment fraud is where fraudsters offer fake but attractive investment opportunities, promising high returns with little or no risk.
These fraudsters may impersonate genuine financial services firms and use aggressive sales tactics to convince people to invest quickly.
Another type of scam is the collection of funds fraud, where fraudsters pose as charity organizations or appeal for donations for a noble cause but pocket the funds themselves.
If you suspect that you have fallen prey to such scams, it is important to take swift action to minimize your losses. Contact your bank immediately to freeze your accounts and cancel your cards and e-wallets. Save your bank’s contact details, especially the fraud hotline, on your mobile phone.
To avoid investment scams, it is crucial to be wary of high returns that come with no or little risk. Such schemes are often too good to be true, and you should carefully research the investment opportunity and the company offering it before investing your money.
Confirm if the claims are true by using the Financial Institutions Directory on the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) website. Most legitimate investment schemes generally do not offer commissions to investors for referrals, so be wary of such incentives.
Finally, be aware that scammers often claim to be well-established or regulated by relevant authorities to gain your trust. Check their credentials carefully, and report any suspicious activity to the authorities immediately.
In Singapore, there have been reports of scams involving banking-related phishing, where victims lost millions of dollars. Always be vigilant, and seek professional advice if in doubt.
5. Fake messages from company representatives or clients
These are perpetrators who pose as company representatives or potential clients and request sensitive information, such as personal or financial details. In some cases, scammers have also asked for access to business-related WhatsApp accounts, which allows them to conduct fraudulent activities under the guise of a legitimate business.
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has warned the public about these scams and urged businesses to be vigilant. The MCMC advises businesses to verify the identity of anyone requesting access to their WhatsApp accounts and to avoid sharing any sensitive information over the app.
WhatsApp itself has also released a statement emphasizing the importance of user safety and security, but acknowledging that scams can still occur on the platform. In addition to being cautious when sharing information over the app, businesses can protect themselves from WhatsApp scams by using cybersecurity solutions such as firewalls and antivirus software.
6. Fake messages from friends or family
Scammers may also try to impersonate your friends or family members. They may send you a message claiming to be a friend or family member in urgent need of financial help. Always verify the identity of the person before sending any money.
According to a BBC report from June 2021, scammers continue to target WhatsApp users in Malaysia and hijack their accounts by posing as friends and family members and asking for SMS security codes. The scammers then use the codes to take over the users’ WhatsApp accounts.
The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has warned the public to be wary of these tactics and to avoid revealing their 6-digit verification codes to anyone, as this is the most common way that scammers gain access to accounts.
To avoid falling victim to a potential scam, it’s recommended that you contact your friends by phone to confirm their identity if you receive text messages from them requesting money. Alternatively, you can ask the sender to provide a voice note as a means of verifying their identity.
7. Phishing scams
Phishing scams involve the use of fake websites or emails to trick you into giving away your personal information.
Scammers may send you a message claiming to be from a bank or other institution, asking you to log in to your account. Always check the URL of the website before entering any personal information.
8. Crowdfunding scams
Crowdfunding scams involve the use of fake crowdfunding campaigns to take advantage of people’s generosity. Scammers may create a fake campaign claiming to raise money for a charitable cause or for someone in need. Always do your research before donating to any crowdfunding campaign.
9. Call forwarding scams
A victim’s WhatsApp account can be taken over by scammers who employ a call forwarding tactic to gain access to messages. The scheme involves a one-time password (OTP) verification code sent through a voice call, using an automated service of a mobile carrier to redirect calls to another number.
First, the scammer contacts the target via phone call and convinces them to dial a number that starts with a Man Machine Interface (MMI) code. These codes typically begin with a star or hash symbol (*#), followed by the scammer’s phone number.
Once the code is dialed, the call forwarding feature is enabled, allowing the attacker to initiate the WhatsApp registration process for the account linked to the victim’s phone number.
To avoid falling for this scam, refrain from answering calls from unknown numbers on WhatsApp. In case you mistakenly activate the call forwarding request, be on the lookout for a pop-up message on your screen that allows you to cancel the activation.
10. Giveaway gift cards and surveys
Scammers often lure individuals into filling out surveys or claiming gift cards from reputable companies like Marks & Spencer through unsolicited messages in an attempt to steal personally identifiable information (PII) or implant malware on their devices.
You may receive an unexpected WhatsApp message promising a free gift card that appears to be from a popular brand, making it look genuine and alluring. Once you click the link, you will be redirected to a survey page where you will be asked to answer some personal questions. The scammer then has access to your sensitive data, including PII (Personal Identifiable Information), and vanishes, leaving you vulnerable to identity theft and with no gift card reward.
To avoid falling victim to such scams, always confirm whether you have signed up for notifications with the company before engaging with any messages received from them on WhatsApp. If you haven’t, delete the message right away. Exercise caution when clicking on promotional links that offer seemingly genuine or lucrative offers. Check the company’s official website or social media accounts for promotions or offers before clicking on any links.
Remember to protect your personal information by refraining from sharing it with strangers and never filling out surveys or providing personal information on unverified websites. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
I fell victim to a WhatsApp scam! Should I report it to WhatsApp?
If you believe you have encountered a WhatsApp scam, it is important to report it to WhatsApp as soon as possible. WhatsApp takes reports of suspicious activity seriously and has provided several ways to report scams and questionable contact numbers.
On Android, you can open WhatsApp, hit “More Options,” and go to “Settings > Help > Contact Us” to submit a scam report.
On iOS, you can open WhatsApp, tap “Settings > Help > Contact Us” to submit a report.
Additionally, if you encounter a suspicious contact, you can report the number to WhatsApp by opening the chat relating to the contact, opening the chat details to find the number, group, or contact name, and selecting “Report Contact” at the bottom of the page.
By reporting scams and suspicious activity to WhatsApp, you can help protect yourself and others from falling victim to these types of scams.
Protect Yourself from Scams with These Cybersecurity Solutions & Tips
- Antivirus software: Installing antivirus software on your device can help detect and prevent malware and phishing attempts, which are often used by scammers to target WhatsApp users.
- Two-factor authentication (2FA): Enabling 2FA on your WhatsApp account can add an extra layer of security by requiring a unique verification code in addition to your password to access your account.
- Secure messaging apps: Switching to a more secure messaging app that uses end-to-end encryption, such as Signal or Telegram, can help prevent your messages from being intercepted by scammers.
- Security awareness training: Educating yourself and others about common WhatsApp scams and how to identify them can help prevent falling victim to these scams.
- Multi-factor authentication (MFA): Consider enabling MFA on your email account since WhatsApp verification codes are sent via email.
- Never divulge your password or SMS security code to anyone, regardless of the circumstances.
- Remain vigilant and exercise caution if you receive a message requesting money. In case of any doubts, it is recommended that you reach out to your friend or family member via a different communication channel or give them a call to verify the legitimacy of the request.
WhatsApp scams are on the rise in Singapore, and scammers are becoming more sophisticated in their methods. They are using a variety of tactics to trick people into revealing their personal information or money.
To protect yourself, be aware of the following:
- Do not reply to unsolicited messages or calls.
- Do not click on links in messages from people you do not know.
- Do not give out your personal information to anyone you do not trust.
- Be suspicious of any offer that seems too good to be true.
- If you think you have been scammed, report it to the authorities immediately.
By following these tips, you can help protect yourself from WhatsApp scams. Stay safe, Singaporeans!
Here are some additional tips to help you stay safe from WhatsApp scams:
- Keep your WhatsApp app up to date.
- Use a strong password for your WhatsApp account.
- Be careful about what information you share on WhatsApp.
- If you receive a suspicious message, report it to WhatsApp.
- You can also report the message to the authorities.
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