WhatsApp scams: The most common types in 2023
According to last year’s statistics, WhatsApp is one of the most popular mobile messengers around the world. A huge audience of the application attracts impostors and leads to the growth of WhatsApp scams. Although the company is constantly adding new features for more privacy and protection, scammers are also developing new ways to defraud WhatsApp users.
We did research, analyzed the types of the latest WhatsApp scams and collected up-to-date information in this article. So, let's get started and find out how you can protect yourself while using WhatsApp.
Why do scammers use WhatsApp?
Messaging apps and social media platforms make it easy for scammers to carry out their deceitful schemes, find, and contact their future victims. Scammers might use WhatsApp for different purposes such as:
- To extort money out of you by pretending to be someone they aren’t.
- To get your personal information to commit identity fraud.
- To infect your device with malware.
- To steal your WhatsApp account.
Most common kinds of WhatsApp scams
With such links, a WhatsApp scammer can infect your device with malware on it. They just send you a message that asks you to download an advanced version of WhatsApp, get free tickets for some event or fill out the form to get an unexpected prize you won.
The good news is that WhatsApp checks the links entirely on your device to identify if they are suspicious. But end-to-end encryption doesn’t allow WhatsApp to see the content of the message. That’s why you also need to pay attention to links and not to tap them, especially if they were sent from an unknown number.
Scammers try to cheat you by pretending to be other people, for example, tech support, your close friend, or child. They do it to trick you and get your verification code, request money for some urgent purpose, and so on.
The main goal of this type of scam is to get access to your WhatsApp account, which is only possible with a WhatsApp verification code.
10 most common WhatsApp scams in 2023
Let’s figure out the most common types of WhatsApp scams, and clarify how they work and how to avoid them.
Tech support scams
This is a kind of verification scam, but in this case, the scammers impersonate members of the WhatsApp tech support service. Usually, they add a "verified" symbol to their profile picture to make the right impression. Such scammers might ask you to verify your identity by asking you for your verification WhatsApp code.
How it works:
- You receive a code that comes through as an SMS.
- If you give them it, they can easily get access to your WhatsApp account and all your chats.
How to avoid this type of scam:
- Pay attention to the verification check mark. It is never displayed in the avatar, only next to a contact name.
- The tech support team of WhatsApp never contacts users through the app.
- Official members never ask for verification codes or credit card details to supposedly prevent account termination.
False identity or the “Hi mum” scam
Another classic type of impersonation scam that’s very easy to perform. In this scam, a fraudster poses as a child or another close relative of the victim and requests to transfer money to their bank account.
How it plays out:
- The victim receives a message from an unknown number claiming to be from their child or grandson/granddaughter. The ‘child’ might explain the new phone number by saying that the phone is lost, broken, or the battery is dead. Also, scammers might ask to delete old phone numbers so that mom or dad wouldn’t actually be able to contact their real son or daughter.
- The scammer insists that they urgently need money and then sends bank details for a transfer.
- Scammers disappear after victims send them money.
What to do
As a rule, scammers play on feelings and rush the victim, claiming a variety of circumstances, including an emergency. It’s important to not lose your temper and before transferring any money make sure that the child's or another close relative's phone number has really changed. The best way is to make a call using an old phone number. That’s why you mustn’t delete an old number if somebody asks to do it.
Close friends or loved ones in an emergency
This type of impersonation scam might be used to get your verification code, get access to your WhatsApp account, and steal your money. Scammers pretend to be close friends or loved ones and ask for help in some urgent situation.
How it works:
- You receive a message from your “friend” or “loved one”. The message might be received from an unknown number, but also from a familiar WhatsApp account, which was hijacked previously.
- Scammers claim that they are in an urgent situation and need your help right away. They might ask for your money, or resend the verification code that was sent to you by mistake.
How to protect yourself
The very first step before sending any money is to verify the identity of your friends or loved ones. Call or ask to send you a voice message to confirm that the person is who they claim to be.
Verification code scam
The main goal of this popular type of scam is to steal a WhatsApp account. As we know, to log in to the victim’s account, a scammer needs a verification code from WhatsApp. To get it, the scammer sends a message from a supposed friend or family member to the victim. In this message, he or she explains that a verification code was sent by mistake to the victim’s account instead of their own. And the scammer asks to give the digit number the victim just received. If the scammer gets this code, the user loses access to the account.
How to avoid this type of scam
Be aware: if you unexpectedly receive a verification code from WhatsApp, you might be a victim of a scammer. The only situation when WhatsApp sends the code is when someone tries to log in to your account from an unfamiliar device. Never show this code to anyone.
Romance cryptocurrency scam
A lot of WhatsApp users regularly lose their money falling into the romance scammers’ net. As usual, scammers find their victims on dating apps such as Tinder, but after they build trust with each other, they move to WhatsApp.
What happens next:
- The scammers try to impress the victim with wealth and success, which according to them was reached because of cryptocurrencies.
- They promise to show you how to get easy money by investing in crypto. They want to help you make your first investment correctly. Because only they know some secret tips.
- But every payment you make goes straight to the scammer’s wallet. You never get your money back.
How to protect yourself
Getting easy money is tempting, but it's often a scam. Cryptocurrency transactions, as well as the ones made through the PayPal or Zelle payment apps, are almost never returned. Before making any payments, be sure that person you meet online is a real person and not an impostor.
WhatsApp Gold scam
The WhatsApp Gold scam is not a new type of scam but it repeats regularly every few years. A scammer sends you a message with a -invitation link to download a special edition of WhatsApp – WhatsApp Gold, which has a lot of advanced features and new options.
Tapping the WhatsApp Gold link does not, of course, lead to another better version of WhatsApp, because it simply does not exist, but installs malware on your device. After it the scammer can hack your phone, steal sensitive information, or your WhatsApp account.
How to avoid this type of WhatsApp scam
Delete any message informing you to download WhatsApp Gold. No matter what message the scammer sends, never forward it to others.
Gift cards and surveys
If you receive messages asking you to fill out a survey or claim a gift card, it’s most likely a WhatsApp scam. Such messages pretend to be from reputable companies. Mainly, they are trying to make you share your personal information or to download malware.
How it works:
- A scammer sends you a message promising a free gift card. As usual the offer seems legitimate because it is associated with a popular brand.
- When you tap the link, you are redirected to a survey page asking for personal information.
- The scammer disappears with your personal information — leaving you facing the risk of identity theft and no gift card whatsoever.
How to avoid this type of WhatsApp scam
It depends on whether you have signed up for notifications of that company or not. If not, ignore the message and delete it. If yes, check the news on the company's official website or social media platforms before you tap any promotional links.
Lottery WhatsApp scams
This type of scam is widely spread in the US where people play in the Mega Million lottery. Scammers send their victims messages that promise cash prizes in exchange for a fee to claim their prize.
How it works:
- Victim receives a WhatsApp message about an unexpected win in the Mega Millions lottery. Since scammers cannot know for sure whether a victim is playing the lottery or not, no-players are eliminated at this stage. Because it's easier for them to ignore such messages.
- The message asks the victim to pay some money to claim the prize.
How to avoid this scam: The best way is to ignore such messages. Mega Millions doesn't award prizes based on phone numbers. Also, the winner needn't pay to claim the prize.
QR code WhatsApp scams
Similar to the previous kind of scam it works the next way:
- Victims receive a message that they won a lottery or contest. But to get the prize it’s necessary to make the first payment.
- If WhatsApp users believe in it, the fraudster sends them a special QR code to make a payment.
- Scanning of QR code gives the scammer access to your mobile wallet, bank account information and PIN number which makes it easy for him or her to steal your money.
How to protect yourself: Keep in mind that scanning a QR code is the same as tapping a link. Think twice before scanning some suspicious QR code.
Call forwarding WhatsApp scams
This type of scam has several steps and it requires some social engineering skills. Let’s see how it works:
- A scammer reaches out to a victim and convinces them to call a specific number. Such unusual numbers are easy to recognize because they start with a star or hash prefix, for example, 405<10 digit number>.
- As soon as you dial the code, call forwarding is activated and your call is redirected to another number.
- While you are calling on this suspicious number, the scammer asks for the verification code for your WhatsApp account via phone call and starts the registration process.
How to protect yourself: If you don’t want to lose your account, you have to avoid and cancel all forwarding requests.
How to recognize a scam on WhatsApp
Scammers constantly come up with new ways to cheat WhatsApp users. Fortunately, all these methods have similar approaches, and knowing them can reduce your chances of becoming a victim. Let’s look closer on them:
- A WhatsApp message requires your immediate action. Messages from scammers are usually alarming and try to force you to do something fast.
- A message was written with grammatical errors. Businesses that are legitimate won't use misspelled words in their text messages. It is most likely a WhatsApp scam if you receive a message with errors.
- A suspicious message from an unknown sender. The best way to check an unknown phone number is to Google it. This simple action lets you see if a message was sent by whoever the sender claims to be.
- A message contains unfamiliar links. Usually, links are used by scammers to hack or infect your device. Be attentive because links might look familiar, differ by only one letter or number from the correct official link.
- A message congratulates you on a random giveaway. Scammers send such messages trying to get your personal information in case you believe in such incredible luck and want to get your prize.
- A message is forwarded. WhatsApp allows users to forward and receive messages from one person to another. The application also has an indicator that looks like a double arrow and shows that message was forwarded five times or more. Messages that have been forwarded so many times are almost always WhatsApp spam.
- A message claims that you have to pay to use WhatsApp. The app is free and nobody has to pay to use it.
How to prevent WhatsApp Scam
Now you know how to track a scammer on WhatsApp and protect yourself from being the target of scammers. Use the following tips to secure your account, your device, and your personal data:
- Download and update WhatsApp only in official stores — Google Play and App Store. Windows users can download the application on the official website.
- Never send a verification code from WhatsApp to anyone.
- Avoid following suspicious links and downloading files, especially from unknown phone numbers.
- Get in touch with customer service. The best way to verify the legitimacy of any received suspicious information through WhatsApp is to contact the company directly.
- Don’t respond to messages asking for money. This advice applies to all types of fraud, not just WhatsApp scams.
- Check your WhatsApp account privacy settings. You can manage who can see your profile photo or status, for example, everyone or only your contacts.
If you receive a message that looks suspicious or sounds too good to be true, don't tap, share, or forward it. The best you can do to avoid WhatsApp scams is to report the message, block the sender, and delete the message.
What to do if you see a scam on WhatsApp
You can easily report any suspicious activity directly to the company. WhatsApp can deactivate the accounts of scammers and protect other users from their fraud. To report a phone number on WhatsApp follow the next steps:
- Open the chat with the user you want to report
- Tap the contact name
- Tap Report Contact and Block
Can you get scammed on WhatsApp?
Yes, any WhatsApp user might become a victim of scammers. Although the company is constantly adding new features for more privacy and protection, scammers are also developing new ways to defraud WhatsApp users.
What are the most popular WhatsApp scams?
Among the most popular WhatsApp scams are verification scams which scammers used to steal access to your account, send malicious links to infect your device and identity scams that force you to send money to the scammers.
Is it safe to open a WhatsApp message from an unknown number?
Yes, it’s safe. Furthermore, only after opening you can block this sender. Pay attention that while opening a message is safe, downloading files received from an unknown phone number or following the links in the message might be potentially dangerous.
Can WhatsApp messages infect my phone?
The message itself cannot do that. However, you can download malware on your device by tapping suspicious links in the message or downloading harmful files that the scammer sends to you.