WHATSAPP users are being warned over a new scam that offers you free internet data. Crooks pose as WhatsApp to trick you into handing over details – and it could leave you seriously out of pocket.
If you receive a message from “WhatsApp” offering 1,000GB of free internet data, don’t click the attached link.
Researchers at cybersecurity firm ESET say it’s a hot new scam designed to defraud users.
Scammers will suggest that the free data is offered “to celebrate WhatsApp’s anniversary”.
But the linked URL isn’t an official WhatsApp website, and is instead set up by scammers.
The app links you to a page that could put malicious software on your device – or even steal private information.
The good news is that the scam seems relatively harmless for now.
It currently directs users to a survey that asks questions about where you found the offer and your opinions on WhatsApp.
It then invites you to pass on the offer to 30 more people to qualify for a big “reward”.
Of course, this is just a ploy to boost the reach of the scam campaign.
Experts at ESET say crooks are simply engaging in a “click fraud scheme”.
This is where scammers rack up bogus ad clicks to earn money from advertisers.
But the researchers also warned that the scam site could change into a phishing operation “at any time”.
If that happened, you could end up losing access to internet accounts, and even significant sums of money – because hackers could gain control of your online identity.
Cyber-boffins also warn that the scammers could use the link to install “malicious software” on your device, which would have similarly dangerous results.
WhatsApp – a quick history
Here’s what you need to know…
- WhatsApp was created in 2009 by computer programmers Brian Acton and Jan Koum – former employees of Yahoo
- It’s one of the most popular messaging services in the world
- Koum came up with the name WhatsApp because it sounded like “what’s up”
- After a number of tweaks the app was released with a messaging component in June 2009, with 250,000 active users
- It was originally free but switched to a paid service to avoid growing too fast
- Facebook bought WhatsApp Inc in February 2014 for $19.3billion (£14.64bn)
- The app is particularly popular because all messages are encrypted during transit, shutting out snoopers
- As of February 2017, WhatsApp has over 1.2 billion users globally
The best advice is to simply ignore the message, and don’t pass it on to pals.
“Attacks that rely on social engineering are rampant, simply because they continue to be very effective,” ESET explained.
“Con artists know full well that everybody likes to receive something for free or help others, and these are just some of our traits that make us susceptible to fraud.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
We’ve asked WhatsApp for comment and will update this story with any response.