“Friend in need” messages are a common WhatsApp scam that can trick you out of your money and personal data. If you get an unexpected request for help, even from a familiar number, some basic due diligence will prevent you from falling for a fake.
For many of us, it’s hard to imagine life without WhatsApp. This handy messaging app is free to install and lets you text anyone, anywhere in the world, as much as you like – completely free of charge. What’s not to love?
However, every communication technology comes with risks. Cybercriminals also love WhatsApp because it’s an easy way to target people directly, appealing to their emotions in the hope of getting them to transfer money or disclose personal information. “Friend in need” scams are a classic and very common example. If you haven’t heard of these fake messages, you need to know about them and make sure your team knows, too.
Help! It’s an emergency!
You’re caught up in work when your phone buzzes. It’s a message from your old friend Bob. He tells you that he’s on holiday abroad and has had his wallet stolen with all his cards inside. Can you transfer him some cash so he can pay his hotel bill?
The message looks believable enough. It came from Bob’s account, after all. But before you rush to help your friend, it’s important to double-check that it’s really Bob who’s writing to you. It’s possible that his account has been hacked, and that the person behind the message is an opportunistic cybercriminal who’s hoping to make some money out of Bob’s contact list.
In 2021, it was reported that 59% of people had received a scam message like this in the last year. Sometimes these messages came from hacked accounts and seemed very convincing. Sometimes they came from a “new number” and started with a generic opening like “Hi Mum”. Whatever the case, the people who fell for them paid a heavy price, sometimes transferring thousands of dollars to a stranger’s bank account.
Do your due diligence
Friend in need scams are easy to fall for, but they’re also easy to avoid. If you get a message from someone in distress, just call them – from your phone’s contact list, not from WhatsApp. That’s the quickest way to know whether you’re dealing with a real emergency or not. Make sure to do this every time you get a request for money, help or information, and you won’t get scammed.
You can also protect your own WhatsApp account – and your friends’ bank accounts – by using a PIN. Just go to Settings in the app, then Account, then Two-Step Verification. Press “Enable”, then choose your PIN. Make sure it’s hard to guess! We recommend you enter an email address, too, so you have a backup security measure in case you forget your PIN.
Scammers change their tactics all the time, and they can create very believable messages that might just catch you off guard. But a reliable IT support partner, like One Technology, can make sure you and your team stay ahead of the hackers. If you’d like to discuss working together, or just ask us a cybersecurity question, get in touch with us today. We’d love to hear from you.