Two people texting each other with a caution sign on the phone

WhatsApp users warned of “friend in need” scam

A text or WhatsApp message from a ‘friend in need’ asking for money or personal information could be a scammer, a new awareness campaign has warned.

More than half (59%) of people have received a message-based scam in the last year or know someone who has, according to the new awareness drive launched by WhatsApp in partnership with National Trading Standards.

The ‘Stop. Think. Call’ campaign aims to help educate people on how to protect themselves and their WhatsApp account from message-based scams.

Message-based scams could include text messages as well as those received on WhatsApp.

The campaign urges people to:

“Stop: Take time before you respond. Make sure your WhatsApp two-step verification is switched on to protect your account, that you are happy with your privacy settings.”

“Think: Does this request make sense? Are they asking for money? Remember that scammers prey on people’s kindness, trust and willingness to help.”

“Call: Verify that it really is your friend or family member by calling them directly, or asking them to share a voice note. Only when you are 100% sure the request is from someone you know and trust, should you consider it. If it turns out to be untrue, report it to Action Fraud.”

The head of the National Trading Standards scams team and Friends Against Scams, Louise Baxter, said the frequency of “friend-in-need” scams has increased in recent months.

“Scammers send messages that appear to come from a friend or family member asking for personal information, money or a six-digit pin number.”

“The messages are sent from the compromised accounts of your friends, so they look as if they’re coming from someone you know, or from an unknown number claiming to be a friend who has lost their phone or been ‘locked out’ of their account.”

Ms. Baxter explains that these scams can be particularly dangerous as they “prey on our kindness and desire to help friends and family.”

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