We are seeing an increase in reports of community and religious WhatsApp groups are being targeted by scammers who infiltrate these groups in order to trick members into forwarding verification codes.
Members of the group receive a WhatsApp audio call or message from someone masquerading as a member of the group. This is done in order to gain trust, and commonly, the scammer will use a false profile picture and / or display name, so at first glance it would appear to be a genuine member of the group.
The fraudster advises the victim that they are about to receive a code which they will need to provide to allow them to join an upcoming video call for group members. Once the victim shares this passcode, the fraudster is able to take over the victims WhatsApp account.
Once the fraudster has taken over the victim’s WhatsApp profile, they will enable two-step verification (aka 2FA 2 factor authentication). The scammer will then go on to message other members of the group, or friends and family in the victim’s contacts, asking them to transfer money urgently as they are in desperate need of help – these messages will appear to come from you.
PROTECT YOUR ACCOUNT
1. NEVER forward or disclose any verification codes to anyone. Much like your PIN, you must never share it with anyone – only ever enter it when required by the app/website.
2. Set up 2FA to protect your WhatsApp account.
Tap Settings > Account >Two-step verification > Enable.
3. STOP. THINK. CHECK. If a family member or friend makes an unusual request on WhatsApp, always call the person to confirm their identity.
4. You can report spam messages or block a sender within WhatsApp. Press and hold on the message bubble, select ‘Report’ and then follow the instructions.
Reports indicate that victims targeted by this scam are often part of large WhatsApp community groups, alumni and academic, work groups, and religious groups, such as church or prayer groups.
If you have been a victim of fraud or cybercrime, report it at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.
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