Massive spike in WhatsApp fraud this spring in the Netherlands
Thousands of mobile phone users in the Netherlands who use the messaging application WhatsApp have been scammed this spring. Reports of WhatsApp fraud are on the rise, NOS reports.
In April 2020, there were record numbers of people hijacking phone numbers on WhatsApp, impersonating users, messaging people’s contacts and asking for large sums of money.
April saw a massive spike in fraud, especially via WhatsApp
The Fraud Help Desk in the Netherlands reported that 15.000 fraud complaints were received by them in April, compared to approximately 6.500 cases per month between December 2019 and February 2020. Although the majority of these fraud reports were cases of WhatsApp fraud, there were also phishing emails and scam letters that look like they are from the tax authority.
WhatsApp fraud incidents have increased significantly during the coronavirus pandemic. "The attackers are getting better, so many people fall for it," says Marloes Kolthof of the Fraud Help Desk. "We think that the corona crisis certainly plays a role, also because it is less easy to get together and more needs to be done digitally."
People are contacting each other more often by mobile phone and messaging apps rather than meeting up in person and the majority of people have a lot more worries on their minds than usual, asserts Kolthof.
The crooks do their homework well
The fraudsters can be so convincing that many have parted with massive sums of money, after being made to believe they were helping out a family member or friend. "The crooks do their homework well," Kolthof said. "They see who someone is friends with on social media and they use it."
The criminals typically hijack a number, send messages to a person’s contacts pretending that there is an emergency and that they need money and they often give a convincing reason why they cannot call.
What to do if you receive a suspicious WhatsApp message
If you receive a request like this, the Fraud Help Desk recommends that you call the person or someone close to them, or, if possible, visit them in person, to ascertain if it was really a genuine money request. "Or ask a question that only you and the other person know the answer to."
WhatsApp users can also enable a two-step authentication procedure for the app, so you would have to enter a code when using WhatsApp on a new phone. Users can also turn on security notifications to let you see when one of their WhatsApp contacts starts using the app on a new phone.