WhatsApp logo with exclamation mark

How to spot a WhatsApp scam

John Vinton | Copywriter

WhatsApp is officially the biggest messenger app in the world. So guess how many messages are sent every single day? A billion? 10 billion? It’s actually a whopping 100 billion messages. No wonder some of them are not what they seem.

Free gifts, competition wins , fake family members, non-existent job offers, we’ve seen them all. But there’s no need to panic. You can protect yourself by keeping your eyes open for some of the most common scams.

(Not) part of the family

You get a message from your brother but on a new number. He’s lost his phone, borrowed a friend’s and needs you to transfer some money urgently. Typical him . Or is it? Even if a message seems legitimate, don’t be too quick to respond. It could be a scam.

We always want to try and help but just be wary with unknown numbers. It was hard enough to spot fake messages when they were written by humans but at least the slightly odd language was sometimes a giveaway

Now they’re often created by AI copying the style from a person’s social media, which makes it even harder. So it’s always best to give the number a quick call to make sure it’s genuine.

A fake number is pretending to be someone's daughter...who has lost their phone
A fake number is pretending to be someone's daughter...who has lost their phone

Congratulations, you’ve won!

If you ever get a message from an unknown number saying you’ve won a competition, we've got bad news. You probably haven’t. And if it asks you to click a link to claim your prize or reply with personal information, then we’re sorry, but it ’s a scam

It’s very, very, very unlikely a company will choose you as the winner of a random contest and share the news via WhatsApp. The only ‘win’ here is to ignore these messages entirely

You've won a phony competition
Congratulations you've won

When can you start?

A great salary, flexible hours, no experience necessary… if an unsolicited job offer sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is. WhatsApp’s popularity, plus the anonymity that comes with its encryption make it the perfect channel for employment fraud.

Scammers will send fake job offers asking for copies of ID documents to ‘run background checks on you’. In reality, they’re planning to steal your data. Warning signs include bad grammar, pressure to accept, vague details, lack of a proper interview and training fees demanded upfront.

Fake recruitment message whatsapp
A phony WhatsApp recruitment message

For your free gift, complete this survey

Another scam as old as the hills is the promise of a reward just for filling in a quick survey by ‘clicking on the link’. The information you unknowingly provide can then be used to commit fraud.

A good rule of thumb is never to click the link in a message you’ve been sent from an unknown number. Remember, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Or a free gift for completing a survey.

WhatsApp free gift scam
WhatsApp Free Gift Scam

King Charles to abdicate

There’s been an earthquake on The Isle Of Wight. Bono is the jacket potato on The Masked Singer. Smart meters are listening to your conversations. All fake news, we’re afraid.

There are two types.

Misinformation - when people get things wrong by accident or when rumours get taken seriously.

Disinformation - when people deliberately spread lies or present their opinion as fact.

Remember, your social media feeds will most likely have fake news on them at some point. So before you’re tempted to pass it on, check other reputable sources of media for confirmation. Rather than your friend’s cousin’s boyfriend’s window cleaner.

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