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By Cheryl Kahla

Content Strategist

Beware, South Africa: WhatsApp scams you need to avoid

Three popular WhatsApp scams are doing the rounds again. Be skeptical, stay safe and never share your personal information.

In today’s always-connected world, it’s no surprise that popular communication app WhatsApp has become the latest scam tool once again.

Alarmingly, South Africans are increasingly finding themselves in the crosshairs of these fraudsters.

It is important to note that WhatsApp’s safeguards – such as end-to-end encryption and two step verification – aren’t always foolproof.

While developers go to great lengths to ensure the safety of WhatsApp users, they cannot always compensate for user error.

WhatsApp scams to avoid

Many scammers turn to social engineering, since it is easier to exploit human emotions and vulnerabilities than it is to hack into someone’s account.

Here are the three most popular scams to avoid.

Social engineering

Social engineering is often tied to impersonation, and scammers could pretend to be your partner, a family member, a close friend or a colleague.

whatsapp scam social engineering
Image: Cheryl Kahla

A popular scheme is the mom-and-dad impersonation, which is extremely easy to orchestrate, especially when elderly parents aren’t all that clued up about social media risks.

The quintessential social engineering scheme involves crafty tricksters masquerading as a person’s child to ask for money.

Parents, caught off guard, are hoodwinked into depositing money into a swindler’s bank account, thinking they’re helping they’re grown bundle of joy out of a pinch.

Phishing scams

Phishing scams, on the other hand, are sophisticated tricks used by fraudsters to deceive users into divulging sensitive information such as passwords or banking details.

These scams often come in the form of a seemingly harmless message or link from a trusted source. In reality, they are from scammers trying to lead you into a trap.

The bait could appear as a promotional offer – such as the recent ‘Spar promotion’ I received this week, promising R2 000 in vouchers if I just click on the link.

Once you click on the provided link, you will likely be redirected to a page that closely mimics a legitimate website (in this case, Spar), where you are requested to input your personal data.

Spoiler alert, it’s not really a verified Spar website, and you’ve just handed your personal details over to scammers.

Fake job offers

The fake job offer scam is another popular trick in South Africa. Scammers send messages with promising job opportunities and high salary packages.

These message often play on the vulnerabilities of job seekers, and the scams often involve the scammer posing as a recruiter or employer who has seen your CV and believes you’re perfect for the job.

The catch? You’ll typically be asked to pay a fee upfront for supposed application processing, background checks, or even job training.

They might ask for personal information like your home address, ID numbers, or bank details, purportedly for ‘official’ purposes.

Once they receive the money or personal details, they vanish, leaving you jobless and a few hundred bucks short on your budget.

Be safe on these WhatsApp streets

  • Be suspicious of unsolicited messages.
  • Always verify the source of a message, especially if it seems out of character.
  • Never share personal details like bank account numbers or passwords over WhatsApp.
  • Enable two-step verification in WhatsApp’s settings for added security.
  • Always keep your WhatsApp app updated.
  • Stay vigilant – if an offer seems too good to be true, it likely is.

READ: WhatsApp Chat Lock: Keep your most sensitive convos private – Here’s how

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