WhatsApp scams: All you need to know

WhatsApp undoubtedly is one of the world’s most popular means of communication, with over 1 billion users across the globe, 95 per cent smartphone users in India using it. Similar to other messaging platforms, WhatsApp users have also been victims to all kind of scams, and hoaxes circulated everyday. WhatsApp is also plagued by spam, hoax and phishing messages, in the same way SMS and emails are today. But the trick to stay safe from such scams and hoaxes has always been the same – dodge them.

Here are some recent scams, hoaxes and phishing messages you should be aware of.

Fake ‘Video Calling’ invitations:

Before launching any new feature on its messaging app, WhatsApp developers rollout some features on its beta platform for the testers. After being tested, these features are then released to public for world-wide use. Beta testers usually reveal to the world about the new features that will soon be added to the final version. However, there are a few too many scamsters who take advantage of a system called ‘feature by invite’ to generate a false invitation to unsuspecting victims, luring them to enable these beta features in advance.

This is what happened with the new ‘video-calling feature’.

A scamster rolled out an invitation to activate video calling feature on WhatsApp, which ended up being a hoax. Each time a user clicked on the invite or message, the scamster made money by showing ads and sending them to various website links.

Those unaware, WhatsApp on November 15 officially enabled video calling on its apps for Android and iOS. We advise you not to fall for the fake ‘video-calling’ feature invitation sent to you on the app because you don’t need to get an invitation to enable video calling. Earlier, when WhatsApp was to roll out the voice calling feature, it enabled it to beta users and those beta users would need to call another person to have his recipient’s app enabled with voice calling – hence the invitation scam was planned. The video calling feature is now officially available on WhatsApp for all its users.

WhatsApp Gold / WhatsApp Plus:

WhatsApp Gold and WhatsApp Plus are not official apps from WhatsApp. They are third-party apps from a developer who has tweaked the official app with a few added features. Using these third-party tweaked apps can be a security threat. In the background, these applications could serve as a backdoor that send all your private data to those developers, or make your smartphone automatically click on advertisements to earn money for the developer. WhatsApp Gold and WhatsApp Plus should not be installed.

Voucher deals:

This scam comes in the form of a WhatsApp message from one of the victim’s contact that encourages them to click on a link to avail an offer. One such message was on ‘ Amazon BigBillionDay Lucky Wheel.’ Such messages include tiny URLs which redirect the users to unfamiliar websites having either malware or survey forms, which can assist hackers to access your phone or computer. If you aren’t sure about the link, it’s better not to click on it in the first place. Another such scam message was based on a McDonald’s free offer.

WhatsApp won’t work for some users:

A recent report claimed that WhatsApp will no longer be available on some smartphones. Factually, WhatsApp is officially ending support for some smartphones – the operating system, actually. Well, this was not a rumour or hoax, but many took it with a pinch of salt. WhatsApp will end all support to a few Nokia, BlackBerry, iPhones and Android smartphones that still use older operating systems, on December 31, 2016.

However, earlier this month WhatsApp released a new statement stating that BlackBerry OS and BlackBerry 10, Nokia S40 and Nokia Symbian S60 will be supported for another 6 months in 2017, while support for Android 2.1, Android 2.2, Windows Phone 7 and iPhone 3GS and iOS 6 will be discontinued from the beginning of 2017.

Do note: The smartphones listed above won’t be blocked from using the messaging app; instead they will stop receiving future updates on WhatsApp. These smartphones can continue using WhatsApp, but will lose out on new features that will be launched with every update of the app. However, there will come one day (too soon) when the older WhatsApp version will completely seize to function.

WhatsApp will no longer be free:

This is another rumour / hoax gaining grounds, on and off, since WhatsApp was launched. Users can ignore it without giving second thoughts. WhatsApp had initially planned to offer the app for free for the first year, and then go paid on a yearly basis. However, WhatsApp officially went free for all users later.

We advise all users to stay away from such scams and not click on any such messages. If you are unsure, it’s best not to open it. Also please don’t forward it too. If you need to make sure of the message, we suggest you search online for more information on such messages.

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