Explosive rise WhatsApp fraud, perpetrators are becoming more and more clever
A total of 2,663 reports of WhatsApp fraud were made in 2019. 353 people were actually victims of the scam. In 2018, the Fraud Help Desk received 655 reports and 124 people became victims.
In the first two weeks of 2020, 112 reports were received by the Fraud Help Desk, more than in the whole of 2017. Nine people were actually victims. They paid a total of 38,189 euros, more than 4,000 euros the man.
Tanya Wijngaarde, spokesperson for the Fraud Help Desk, warns that the scammers are becoming smarter in their deception. The most common form of WhatsApp fraud is the trick in which a scammer pretends to be an acquaintance, such as a close friend, son or daughter. But where scammers previously pretended to be an acquaintance with a new phone number, they now hijack the already existing WhatsApp accounts of victims.
One way the scammers get that done is hacking voicemails. If scammers want to use someone’s WhatsApp account, they need a verification code. This code sends WhatsApp via SMS to the number on which the WhatsApp account is set up.
If this code is not activated immediately, you can also be called to let the code pass. If there is no answer, the code ends up in the voicemail.
To enter a voicemail box from another telephone you need a pin code. If people have a standard or easy-to-guess PIN code for a voicemail box, such as ‘0000’ or ‘1234’, the hacker can listen to the voicemails in no time and therefore has the WhatsApp verification code in their hands.
It happened to Stephan Fellinger’s partner. She had an easy pin code on her voicemail box and was unable to enter her WhatsApp account overnight. The hackers had set up two-step verification for her account and used her identity to send her contacts messages.
Her partner Stephan received a WhatsApp from his wife in not very good Dutch in which she asked for the verification code of WhatsApp. She would have sent it to him “by accident.”
“Of course I didn’t fall for it,” Fellinger says. “It turned out that her voicemail had been hacked and that her WhatsApp account had been hijacked. We received messages from several people that they had received crazy apps from my wife.”
Fellinger suspects that the scammers were looking for an easy prey that they could ask for money. “They did not find that in the contacts of my partner. Not everyone from her contact list was approached, it seems as if they sense whether there is an easy prey between them and if that is not the case, they will quickly break out.”
Vineyard of the Fraud Help Desk therefore warns never to give the verification code to anyone. She also recommends that if someone asks for money, first ask for proof of their identity by, for example, requesting to send a video or a voice memo.