HomeTechUrgent warning over WhatsApp group scam targeting family and friends

Urgent warning over WhatsApp group scam targeting family and friends

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WhatsApp group chat members are being targeted in a new scam (Picture: Getty)

Experts are warning WhatsApp group chat members about an audio call scam which could cost friends and family their savings.

Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, says it has received hundreds of complaints from victims.

The scammer gains the individual’s trust by calling and pretending to be a member of a group chat, often using a fake profile picture and display name.

On the call, the fraudster will tell the victim they are sending them a one-time passcode (OTP) to join the upcoming call for group members and ask the victim to share the passcode with them to be ‘registered’ for the call. 

However, in reality, this is an access code that will allow the scammer to register the victim’s WhatsApp to a new device so they can take over their account.

Then the scammer will enable two-step verification, making it impossible for the victim to get back into their account.

Scammers will access a person’s WhatsApp to message their friends and family for money (Picture: Getty/iStockphoto)

This then allows the scammer to message other people in the victim’s contacts, often asking for money as if they are in desperate need of help.

Detective Superintendent Gary Miles, head of the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau at the City of London Police, said: ‘WhatsApp remains an integral mode of communication for many people across the UK, however, fraudsters still find ways to infiltrate these platforms. Sadly, anyone can become a target for fraud.

‘With more than 630 reports already this year, we are urging users, and in particular, those in big group chats on WhatsApp, to be on their guard and monitor who joins the chats.’

Detective Superintendent Miles said that to keep safe from fraud, keep any account details or passcode and verification codes private, and report any suspicious messages within WhatsApp.

The police also advise setting up two-step verification to provide an extra layer of protection.

A WhatsApp spokesperson said all personal messages sent on WhatsApp are protected by end-to-end encryption. 

‘We recommend that all users set up two-step verification for added security and advise people never to share their six-digit PIN code with others, not even with friends or family,’ the Meta-owned company said. 



What can you do to avoid being a victim?

  • Set up two-step verification (2SV) to give an extra layer of protection to your account.

Tap Settings > Account > Two-step verification > Enable.

  • CALL. If a family member or friend makes an unusual request on WhatsApp, always call the person outside of WhatsApp to confirm their identity.
  • Report spam messages or block a sender within WhatsApp. Press and hold on the message bubble, select ‘Report’ and then follow the instructions.

Source: Action Fraud

‘If you receive a suspicious message – even if you think you know who it’s from – calling or requesting a voice note is the fastest and simplest way to check that someone is who they say they are.’

According to Action Fraud data, reports suggest the top three most frequently impacted group chat types are Islamic religious groups, Christian religious groups and work chats. 

If you feel like you have been a victim of fraud or cybercrime, report it at actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040. In Scotland, victims of fraud and cybercrime should report to Police Scotland on 101.


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