Urgent Warning: Beware of WhatsApp Group Scam Targeting Family and Friends

Experts are sounding the alarm on a deceptive audio call scam circulating within WhatsApp group chats, posing a significant risk to the savings of unsuspecting individuals.

Action Fraud, the UK’s foremost reporting center for fraud and cybercrime, has received a barrage of complaints from victims falling prey to this scheme.

The modus operandi of the scam involves a fraudster impersonating a group member, often using a fabricated profile picture and username, to deceive the victim.

During the fraudulent call, the scammer dupes the victim into believing they need to share a one-time passcode (OTP) to ostensibly participate in an upcoming group call. However, this passcode serves as an access key for the scammer to hijack the victim’s WhatsApp account on a new device.

Subsequently, the scammer activates two-step verification, effectively locking the victim out of their own account. This enables the scammer to exploit the victim’s contact list by soliciting money under false pretenses.

Detective Superintendent Gary Miles, leading the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau at the City of London Police, emphasized the pervasive nature of such fraud, urging vigilance among WhatsApp users, especially those engaged in large group chats.

To mitigate the risk of falling victim to such scams, users are advised to safeguard their account details, passcodes, and verification codes, refraining from sharing them with anyone, even acquaintances. Additionally, promptly reporting any suspicious activity within WhatsApp is encouraged.

Law enforcement authorities advocate for the implementation of two-step verification as an added security measure.

In response to inquiries, a spokesperson from WhatsApp, owned by Meta, reassured users about the encryption protecting personal messages. They underscored the importance of activating two-step verification and cautioned against sharing PIN codes.

How to Protect Yourself from Falling Victim:

  • Activate Two-Step Verification (2SV): Enhance the security of your account by enabling two-step verification through the settings menu.

  • Verify Unusual Requests: Always verify unusual requests from family or friends outside of WhatsApp, preferably through a phone call.

  • Report Suspicious Activity: Take prompt action by reporting spam messages or blocking suspicious senders within WhatsApp.

In the face of mounting reports, data from Action Fraud indicates that Islamic and Christian religious groups, along with work-related chats, are among the most frequently targeted group chat types.

Should you suspect fraudulent activity or cybercrime, report it promptly through actionfraud.police.uk or contact 0300 123 2040. In Scotland, victims can reach out to Police Scotland on 101.

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