What Is WhatsApp Doing Against Scam Groups?

May 2, 2024 | Crypto Scam Defense | 0 comments

WhatsApp is one of the most used messaging platforms worldwide, but it is also one of the most attacked by scammers. In the first half of 2023, it was involved in just over 70% of the 6,573 scam cases reported on messaging platforms.

Given WhatsApp’s role in personal, professional, and financial communications, its susceptibility to scams raises serious concerns. The urgency of adopting and improving strong security measures is evident to protect users from these threats

In this post, we will explore what WhatsApp is currently doing to combat scams, as well as additional measures that could be implemented to better protect users from falling victim to this type of fraud within their digital communications.

A woman chatting worried about  WhatsApp scam

What is WhatsApp Doing Against Scam?

WhatsApp actively works with the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN)  and other organizations to address misinformation and prevent scams. Through its WhatsApp Business App and WhatsApp Business Platform, the company supports initiatives that use innovative ways to provide reliable information.

Besides this, WhatsApp has implemented several security measures to combat scam groups, like:

1-Automatic Identify and Block Spam

WhatsApp uses advanced detection systems that automatically identify and block spam and potential fraudulent accounts. These systems analyze patterns of spam behavior, such as quick mass messages and unsolicited contacts, which are often WhatsApp scam text messages

By preventing these accounts from persuading users to share personal information, WhatsApp reduces the chance of scams reaching a user’s inbox, providing a first line of defense against potential fraud.

2-Security Alerts

To further improve security, WhatsApp issues proactive alerts to users about suspicious activities. If the system detects unusual behavior, such as an attempt to register a phone number already in use on another device, it alerts the user immediately. 

This approach ensures that users are aware of and can respond quickly to any potential security breaches, thus preventing unauthorized access and reducing the risk of scams.

3-Designed Privacy Settings

WhatsApp has default settings designed to protect user privacy and reduce the risk of scams. It’s especially beneficial in situations where users might feel uncomfortable or when others add them to groups without their consent, thus also reducing their exposure to potential scam groups

Additionally, users have control over who can see their profile, such as their last seen status, profile photo, and about information.

4-Leave Groups Without Notification

Users can now exit WhatsApp groups without sending a notification to all group members. This feature helps to improve user discretion and privacy by allowing them to leave conversations without drawing attention.

5-Control Over Online Status Visibility

WhatsApp provides users with the ability to manage who can see when they are online. This control over online status visibility is important for privacy because it prevents stalkers or potential scammers from watching their online activities. 

6-Disappear Messages

WhatsApp’s disappearing messages feature allows users to set messages to automatically delete after a certain time, ranging from 24 hours to 90 days. This helps maintain conversation privacy by ensuring that sensitive information does not remain in chat histories indefinitely, reducing the risk of data theft

The feature is particularly useful in contexts where temporary communication is needed, reducing the long-term risk of information compromise and scams.

7-Screenshot Blocking for View Once Messages

To further secure private communications, WhatsApp has introduced a feature that prevents screenshots of view-once messages. These are messages designed to disappear after the recipient has viewed them once, and blocking screenshots helps ensure that these messages remain truly temporary. 

This feature is highly important in protecting sensitive information from being captured and stored, thereby safeguarding against data theft and scams.

Chatting on a smartphone avoiding WhatsApp scam

More WhatsApp Security Features and User Control Against Scams 

WhatsApp has introduced several user control and security features to help users manage their interactions and protect their accounts:

  • Reporting Issues: WhatsApp allows users to report spam or suspicious accounts directly within the app. Reporting is important because it helps keep users safe and makes the platform safer overall. It also helps WhatsApp identify and take action against potential scammers.
  • Blocking Contacts: This allows users to control their digital space, preventing unwanted or harmful interactions. Blocking someone ensures they can no longer call or send messages, which is especially important for users experiencing harassment or receiving spam and scam messages.
  • Recovering Your Account: WhatsApp offers several options for recovery if a user suspects that their account has been compromised. To take back control, they can simply reinstall WhatsApp and verify their phone number via SMS.  

What Scams Are on WhatsApp?

WhatsApp is a convenient tool for staying in touch, but it’s important to be aware of the risks it can bring to users. We’ll look at common scams on the platform and how you can avoid them to stay safe:

  • Gift Cards Fraud: Scammers ask victims to purchase gift cards as part of a charity campaign or to help a friend in need. Once buyers purchase the gift cards and send the codes to the scammer, the scammer drains the funds and disappears
  • Verification Code Theft: This scam involves a fraudster attempting to take control of your WhatsApp account by stealing your access verification code. Victims usually receive a message from someone pretending to be a friend or a WhatsApp official, claiming they accidentally sent a verification code to them and require it back. 
  • Impersonation Scam: In this scam, fraudsters pretend to be someone the victim trusts, like a family member, friend, or a trusted organization. They might claim to be in an emergency and ask for immediate financial help, or they could pretend to offer official assistance for a fee.
  • Cryptocurrency Investment Scams: This type involves unsolicited messages promoting investment opportunities in cryptocurrency. The crypto scam often includes high return promises, and urgent calls to action to manipulate victims into transferring money to illegitimate accounts.
  • Romantic Cryptocurrency Fraud: These scammers use WhatsApp to establish romantic relationships with their targets. After building trust, romance scammers take advantage of emotional sensitivities and manipulate their victims into investing in fraudulent cryptocurrency schemes. 
  • Lottery and Prize Scams: This scam starts with a message congratulating the victim on winning a lottery or a prize in a contest they did not enter. To claim the supposed winnings, scammers ask victims to pay processing fees or provide personal information, which they can use for identity theft

Beyond the Click: WhatsApp Scam Stories

In recent months, there has been a global rise in WhatsApp scams, demonstrating a disturbing trend of social media impersonation and manipulation. For example, in Singapore, since November, scammers using fake WhatsApp Web pages have cheated 93 people out of a total of $176,000. These scams are part of a larger pattern where 237 individuals fell victim to social media impersonation. 

The scammers accessed accounts by sending malicious links, then, posing as the account owners, asked contacts for money under false pretenses such as urgent medical expenses.

Moreover, in Spain, according to the BBC, authorities arrested over 100 individuals between February and April who were part of a criminal group that manipulated WhatsApp users into transferring nearly a million euros. The victims, believing they were helping relatives in dire situations, were scammed into sending amounts ranging from €800 to €55,000.

How to Avoid Scams on WhatsApp

Now that you are aware of the various scams on WhatsApp and understand the security tools and measures the platform provides, you can improve your safety by being prepared for them.. Here are some practical strategies to help you stay secure:

  • Activate Two-Factor Authentication: This adds an extra level of security to your WhatsApp account. Even if someone steals your verification code, they would need the second-factor code to access your account.
  • Protect Your Verification Code: Never share your WhatsApp verification code with anyone, not even friends or family. This code is the key to accessing your WhatsApp account, and sharing it can lead to account theft.
  • Avoid Unknown Contacts: Be cautious about interacting with messages from unknown numbers. If you don’t recognize the sender, it’s often safer to ignore or block the contact.
  • Review Privacy Controls: Regularly review your WhatsApp privacy settings to control who can see your information, such as your last seen, profile photo, status, and more. Making changes to these settings can reduce your exposure to potential scammers.
  • Report Suspicious Accounts: Use WhatsApp’s reporting feature to alert the service about potential scam accounts. Additionally, block and delete any suspicious contacts to prevent further communication.
  • Be Cautious with External Links: Scammers frequently send links that lead to malicious websites. Avoid clicking on links from unknown sources, as they could install malware on your device or trick you into providing personal information.
  • Confirm Identities in Emergencies: If you receive a message from someone claiming to be a friend or family member in an emergency, try to verify their identity through a separate communication channel before responding or sending any help.
  • Keep Personal Information Private: Be careful of any request for personal information, such as your address, financial information, or social security number.  Scammers can use this information for identity theft or other fraudulent schemes.
A woman using WhatsApp on her smartphone

What Could WhatsApp Do to Improve the User Experience against Fraud and Scams? 

While WhatsApp serves as a communication tool globally, the security measures currently implemented are not sufficient to fully protect users from emerging threats. As user concerns and the complexity of scams increase, there is a pressing need for stronger protections and more user-friendly features.

To address these concerns, WhatsApp could make users feel more confident and make the platform safer and more secure with the following measures that are proposed:

  • Improvements to Feedback Services when Reporting: Implement a system where users receive notifications or updates after reporting scam groups. This will ensure the reports are being taken seriously and encourage more users to report suspicious activities.
  • Changes to the Reporting Interface: Improve the reporting interface to be more user-friendly and expand the space available for describing issues. This would allow users to provide more detailed information, helping in the effective resolution of reported concerns.
  • Address Unsolicited Contacts: Develop a feature that enables users to control who can contact them, possibly by allowing only those in their contacts or those they have explicitly approved. This would increase privacy and reduce the incidence of unwanted messages.
  • Introduce Verification for Phone Numbers: Establish a mechanism to verify the identity associated with a phone number. This could help users distinguish between legitimate contacts and potential scammers, enhancing overall security on the platform.

Additional Tips for Your Protection Against WhatsApp Scam

Implementing these additional security measures can reduce the risk of falling victim to scams and ensure a safer experience on WhatsApp. To combat the risks associated with WhatsApp and other online activities, consider employing these options:

1-Protection with Anti-Malware Software

  • Norton 360: Known for its superior malware detection capabilities, Norton 360 includes additional security features such as VPN services and identity theft protection. It also monitors the dark web for potential data breaches that could impact your personal information. 
  • Bitdefender: This all-in-one package offers a VPN, password management, parental controls, and effective antivirus protection. Bitdefender combines extensive security features, making it an attractive option for effective digital protection. 
  • MacKeeper: Adapted specifically for Apple users, MacKeeper is designed to respond to the unique security needs of macOS and iOS devices. It includes features such as antivirus protection, patch management, and a VPN. 

2-Reverse Image Search to Track Scammers on WhatsApp

Reverse image search is a tool that allows you to search the internet using an image instead of text. By uploading a photo, the tool compares it with billions of other images available online to find matches or similar pictures. This can help identify the source of an image, find higher resolutions, or discover related content.

These steps could help identify and potentially track down scammers on WhatsApp, although the effectiveness can vary depending on the accuracy and availability of the information collected.

FAQ About WhatsApp Security against Scams

Can Users Be Scammed on WhatsApp?

Yes, users can be scammed on WhatsApp. Despite the platform’s security features, it’s not entirely immune to malicious activities. Users should remain vigilant against phishing attacks, where scammers might send false messages trying to trick them into providing personal information or clicking on harmful links.

Can a VPN Make My WhatsApp Messages Safer?

VPNs secure your online traffic by encrypting it, including the messages you send over WhatsApp. This encryption adds a layer of security, making it harder for hackers or any malicious entities to intercept and read your messages.

Can Metadata Compromise My Privacy Even If My Messages Are Encrypted?

Yes, even though you may encrypt and secure the content of your messages, someone can still access the metadata, which includes details like who you communicate with and when. This metadata can reveal patterns and connections, potentially providing valuable information about your habits and social networks.

How Does WhatsApp’s Data Sharing with Facebook Impact My Security?

WhatsApp’s data sharing practices with Facebook can impact user security. Although WhatsApp maintains that personal conversations are confidential, it does share certain user information, such as phone numbers, with Facebook. 

Mainly, companies use this data for personalized advertising, but sharing it could potentially increase the risk of data breaches by making more data accessible within the broader Facebook network

Recognize and Avoid WhatsApp Scams

WhatsApp is actively working to create a safer communication environment. In 2023 alone, the platform banned 71,96,000 accounts in India for policy violations, as reported by The Times of India. Also, WhatsApp is testing a new security feature, according to WABetaInfo, which reports on the latest WhatsApp Android beta v2.24.10.5. 

This feature would allow instant messenger users to ban user accounts reported for suspicious activities. That’s why, as a user, it is also important to stay informed about WhatsApp’s protective measures and make full use of the available security features to protect your digital interactions.

We Want to Hear From You!

The fight against cryptocurrency scams is a community effort, and your insights are invaluable. Have you encountered a scam, or do you have questions about navigating the complex world of digital currency? Maybe you have suggestions or want to share your story to help others. Whatever your experience, we’re here to listen and support you.

Reach out to us at hello@cryptoscamdefensenetwork.com. Share your stories, ask questions, or make comments. Your voice is crucial to building a resilient and informed community. Together, we can improve our defenses and promote a safer digital space for all.

Be a part of the change. Your story matters.Photos via Unsplash