Scammers will try anything to get your money. Officials are now warning users about a WhatsApp scam that involves criminals posing as their family or loved ones. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself from this devious scam.
Criminals start this WhatsApp scheme by stealing another person’s login information. Once the scammers have someone’s password, they can reach out to that user’s family or friends. Posing as a loved one, the thieves say they need money for a surprise medical bill or legal trouble.
This scheme is insidious because it preys on people’s sense of kindness. When you get a message from a family member in need, your first instinct is to help them. However, there are some surefire ways to screen your requests to ensure that you’re speaking to your actual family member.
The signs of a scam can be tricky to spot. Scammers are more sophisticated than ever, but savvy users can still see the signs that a request for money isn’t genuine. Red flags like an unusual mode of speech or uncommon hours of activity might signal that the person isn’t really who they say they are.
Likewise, a family member reaching out for money after weeks of silence should be concerning. You should never send money to anyone online before speaking to them either in person or over the phone. Slow down and carefully think before you do anything irreversible. Once you’ve sent the money, there’s no getting it back.
The first thing you should do before responding to any unusual messages is to call the person. Try to get the family member on the phone to hear their voice. If they need money, confirm this with them through another form of communication other than just text.
If you’re struggling to get the person to answer their phone, wait before you continue talking to them via WhatsApp. Think of a few ways to probe the person for information only they could know. For instance, ask them about vacations you took together, their favorite foods, and other questions that could weed out a scammer.
“If you receive a suspicious message, even if you think you know who it is from, calling or requesting a voice note is the fastest and simplest way to check someone is who they say they are,” says WhatsApp policy manager Kathryn Harnett. “A friend in need is a friend worth calling.”