The popular chat app WhatsApp has been the target of an ongoing and frustrating scam, experts warn. The scam is simple, straightforward, and has been around for years. It also continues to catch otherwise-savvy victims.
Read on for info on how to avoid this common and frustrating WhatsApp scam.
The basic scam works like this: your phone gets a text message from WhatsApp containing a six-digit code. Usually, WhatsApp uses these codes for things like making a new account or logging into an account on a different phone than you usually do. Then, one of your actual friends on WhatsApp reaches out and asks if you just got a six-digit code for their account.
This is where the simple scam gets most people, even savvy users. The person who messaged you is using your friend’s account, and they accidentally sent the code to your phone instead of their own. These things happen! You’re a good friend and you understand how tricky signing in on a new phone is. As such, you might be inclined to take a screenshot of the code and send it to them.
If you stop for a moment and think, though, you’ll realize what’s actually happening here. Your “friend” messaging you isn’t actually a friend at all. The person who is asking you for the code that was sent to your phone is a scammer, and they’ve already scammed your friend into giving up their account. The code you were sent is for your WhatsApp account.
There’s not a realistic scenario in which a friend of yours could have had their code sent to the wrong number. WhatsApp has your phone number on file and sends you an automated message when you try to sign up or sign into a new phone. The only way for you to get a message from WhatsApp is if someone is trying to sign in as you.
Now that the scammer looks just like you to people in your contacts list, they can repeat this scam with your friends. They could pretend to be you to your family and ask for money, claiming that you’re in a bad situation and need cash. The fewer questions asked, the better, the thief insists, panicking your family and scamming them out of money.
The scammer will also have access to your chat history, where they could pull all kinds of personal information about you or your friends that could be used for identity theft.
So, remember, never share six-digit codes like these with anyone, even if you think it’s a friend of yours. Keep your digital information as safe as you’d normally keep your cash or your bank account information, and stay vigilant for scams like these.