WhatsApp user reveals convincing scam that almost cost him £1,000 and you could be next


Scammers are trying to trick WhatsApp users out of their hard-earned money with the notorious ‘friend in need’ con. The infamous swindle sees a WhatsApp user being contacted by someone pretending to be a friend or loved one and asking for money to be sent over urgently to help with an emergency. The WhatsApp scam relies on social engineering and manipulating people’s feelings – and the latest person to fall victim to this was a 72-year-old father.

Martin Stevens was targeted by the scam, with a con-artist posing as his 32-year-old son Jack.

Stevens was told that his ‘son’ needed £1,085 to purchase a new phone which had fallen from his worktop and was “completely smashed”.

The message seemed believable enough, as Jack had recently bought a new iPhone and had flagstone flooring in his kitchen – which could lead to such damage.

Stevens agreed to lend the money and sent over details of his Barclaycard – which scammers quickly jumped on to attempt to withdraw the money.

Thankfully, Barclaycard’s fraud detection system noticed something was amiss and messaged Stevens to be sure this wasn’t a dubious transaction.

Speaking to The I, Stevens said scammers sent a message asking if they could use another card as the transaction didn’t go through. After which they sent another message with three smiley emojis and the message “My time’s up”.

Jack not long afterwards called Stevens, which was when the penny dropped.

When speaking to his son at the time Stevens revealed: “I said, ‘I’ve just been having a conversation with you, there was a long pause and he said, ‘No, you haven’t dad, that’s a scam’.”

The father then swiftly called Barclaycard to cancel all his cards.

Stevens, who said he felt “incredibly embarrassed” about the incident, said: “What was really extraordinary there was that the intonation, the phrasing was the same that he used.”

The father who works part-time in a pharmacy added: “It was almost like this person has been listening or been watching the conversation between Jack and I.”

WhatsApp, which uses end-to-end encryption to protect the privacy of users messages, says it encourages people that use the chat app to be on guard to the threat of scam artists.

Kathryn Harnett, policy manager at WhatsApp, said: “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 someone is who they say they are. A friend in need is a friend worth calling.”

While River Hart, digital privacy expert at digital freedom resource ProPrivacy, added: “Cybercriminals will capitalise on all opportunities, and manipulating loved ones into paying money in a Friend in Need scam is perhaps its most dangerous. As such it is vital the public are aware of this insidious strategy.

“This scam relies on social engineering techniques to dupe their victims into believing they are a friend or family member in need of financial help, with some combing through their target’s social media platforms to study communication patterns before executing the con.

“The scammers will pressure their target, attempting to cajole the victim into taking immediate action. During the recent spate of Friend in Need scams, we’ve seen fraudsters claiming to be sons or daughters in need of money to replace a broken phone, or even cover the cost of a train ticket, an urgent bill, or groceries.

“By creating a sense of urgency, scammers can push victims to make impulsive decisions – and if they’re successful, they may come back with fresh demands for more money.

“If you receive a request for money from an unknown number claiming to be a friend or family member, give them a call or ask for a voice note. Anyone who’s truly in need will be happy to talk things over – but a scammer won’t. You should also use alternative methods of communication, like social media, to verify the request.”

Published at Wed, 26 Jan 2022 07:01:00 +0000

WhatsApp user reveals convincing scam that almost cost him £1,000 and you could be next


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