Shomrim Warns of New Whatsapp Scam

By Matis Glenn

(123rf)

To add to the list of hundreds of types of scams being perpetrated online against hapless victims, Shomrim tells Hamodia of a new scam targeting Whatsapp users. Last week, four Whatsapp accounts belonging to frum Jews in Boro Park were hacked, letting scammers take control of their accounts, and see the victims’ contacts, and messages. Posing as the victims, the scammers asked for “urgent” funds to be sent online, defrauding their friends and family of thousands of dollars.

While it isn’t clear how the fraudsters gained access, they likely were able to discover their passwords.

Using a 2-step verification system, which Whatsapp and most major online platforms offer, requires users to verify their login credentials whenever using a new device, by entering a code sent to a device designated for that purpose. For instance, if someone logs into Chase bank on a new desktop computer, they will have to enter a code sent to the cell phone number linked to the account.

In 2021, the Federal Trade Commission estimates that US citizens lost $5.8 billion to scammers, up 70 percent from the previous year.

To avoid scams, never send money to someone – even a family member – without calling them first, to make sure the request is legitimate.

Another tip to prevent fraud is to avoid googling common websites like Amazon, Microsoft, Chase bank, and others, because often scammers will buy advertising space on Google, while changing their website name to a URL which sounds like the company they’re impersonating. You can also avoid that kind of scam by looking at the left-side of the link, where advertisers have the word “ad” before the search result name.

Below is a list of common scams and how to avoid them. This list is not by any means complete, and scammers are constantly changing their tactics. It’s pretty easy for scammers to mask their caller-ID to match the phone number of whoever they’re claiming to be, so don’t be fooled by a familiar name or phone number appearing on the screen.

  • The Social Security Administration will not contact people by phone unless a customer has requested it; they send out information via mail otherwise. They also do not ask for money, call about “problems” with your Social Security numbers, “suspend” numbers, threaten you or your family with arrest, or offer increases in benefits in exchange for money.
  • The IRS contacts people by mail, and on rare occasion, over the phone, but they never ask for immediate payment, nor do they threaten to involve local police. All payments to the IRS are done directly on government websites ending in .gov or sent directly to the IRS via mail. The IRS will never ask you to download any software whatsoever or visit any websites not ending in .gov.
  • If someone claims that they’ve sent you money in error on Zelle or other online payment platforms – even if you see the funds transferred – do not send them money back; rather report and cancel the transaction yourself. Scammers often take control of victims’ accounts, send money, ask for it back, and cancel the original transaction, leaving the victim without a way of canceling the funds transfer.
  • Reputable companies and government agencies never offer refunds by asking to take remote control of your computer, nor do they ever ask for payment in the form of gift cards.
  • Microsoft, Apple, Google, and other software providers do not contact people to report problems with their devices and offer to fix them over the internet.
  • The US government does not offer “citizen grants” to people.
  • Your bank will never call you to ask for money or ask you to give them your username and password.
  • If you get a text message from your bank warning you of suspicious activity, do not click on any links or call any phone numbers in the message. Reach out to your bank directly to find out if there are any issues. Scammers often send links to harmful websites which inflict viruses or spyware onto computers, which let them steal your information. They also will be able to gain access to your actual bank accounts.
  • If you haven’t entered a lottery or sweepstakes, you can’t win one. Even if you have entered, call the company running the contest to verify.
  • Be advised to use agents and companies you trust when deciding on booking plane tickets, or getting car insurance quotes.
  • Calls from people offering to extend your car’s warranty, or deal with financial debt are usually scammers. Speak with established agents if you’re interested in getting these services.
  • Do not engage with scammers on the phone; some of them will record your voice and use it on platforms which require voice recognition to gain access to your accounts or personal information.

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