Singapore—The Police issued an advisory on Thursday, April 4, saying that there has been an uptick in scams involving the takeover of accounts of the popular messaging application WhatsApp. Since the beginning of the year, at least 90 reports have been filed with the Police of scammers taking over people’s accounts.
1. Victims receive a WhatsApp message from a friend whose account has been compromised, requesting the victim to send over a 6-digit verification code sent to them via short message service (SMS).
2. Afterward, the victims lose access to their WhatsApp account after giving the scammers the 6-digit verification codes.
3. The compromised accounts then are used by the scammers to get users to transfer money, send funds via MOL points, and/or buy gift cards, send the passwords for these cards, and then re-sell the cards online.
The Police say that this is what individuals can do to prevent scams from proliferating, and to prevent being victimized themselves
- Be careful concerning unusual requests received over WhatsApp, even if sent from people you know (your WhatsApp contacts)
- When in doubt, call the person who sent you the request to verify its authenticity. Better to call them not using WhatsApp, since their account may already have been taken over
- Make sure your WhatsApp account is protected via enabling the ‘Two-Step Verification’ feature that can be found under ‘Account’ in the ‘Settings’ tab of your WhatsApp application. This prevents scammers from taking over your WhatsApp account.
The Police also said that members of the public who would like to relay any information regarding this type of scam should call their hotline at 1800-255-0000, or submit it online at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness.
Individuals who require urgent assistance from the Police should call 999.
People who need to get scam-related advice should call the anti-scam helpline at 1800-722-6688 or go to www.scamalert.sg.
The Police also encourage the public to join the ‘let’s fight scams’ campaign at www.scamalert.sg/fight “by signing up as an advocate to receive up-to-date messages and share them with your family and friends.”
The advisory ends with the Police encouraging the “public to help stop scams and prevent our loved ones from becoming the next victim.”
Last January WhatsApp also imposed measures to prevent the spread of fake news, limiting the number of people each user can forward messages to.
Victoria Grand, WhatsApp’s vice president for policy and communications, announced this at an event in Jakarta, Indonesia. The company said that it had tested forwarding limits in the country for six months before coming to a decision. She said, “We’re imposing a limit of five messages all over the world as of today,” as part of the company’s endeavor to fight “misinformation and rumors.”
In India, the number of messages that can be forwarded was already limited to 5 by last July, after a series of mob lynchings were proved to be connected to messages on WhatsApp that had spread around various groups.
According to WhatsApp, Indian users “forward more messages, photos, and videos, than any other country in the world.” Several of the messages that allegedly sparked the violence that ensued had been forwarded to WhatsApp groups of more than one hundred members.
In limiting the number of people that a message can be forwarded to, WhatsApp said that it hoped messages would be forwarded less frequently, with this measure as well as with the removal of the “quick forward button” for photos and videos.
The measure, however, hardly prevents the receiver from forwarding messages to five other contacts.
Previous to the announcement in Indonesia, the users of the app could forward messages to as many as 20 groups or contacts.
WhatsApp claims “The forward limit significantly reduced forwarded messages around the world,” according to a representative, which would “help keep WhatsApp focused on private messaging with close contacts. We’ll continue to listen to user feedback about their experience, and over time, look for new ways of addressing viral content.”