A spate of scams involving the takeover of WhatsApp accounts has resurfaced and the police is alerting the public to stay cautious.
In an advisory posted on its website on Wednesday (July 10), the Singapore Police Force (SPF) said that victims of such scams would receive a text on the messaging app from a contact claiming that his or her WhatsApp account had been compromised.
The victim would be asked to send the person a six-digit verification code, a security feature that is delivered via SMS when a new WhatsApp account is created.
The victim will then lose access to the account, SPF said.
The police advised members of the public to avoid sharing their account verification codes with anyone and be wary of unusual requests received via the platform, including those apparently sent by WhatsApp contacts.
Individuals who do receive such requests should call the contact to verify its authenticity, SPF said, noting that the call should not be done over the app as the account might have already been compromised.
WhatsApp users are also encouraged to protect their accounts by enabling the “two-step verification” feature, which can be found under “Account” in the “Settings” tab of the app.
When an account has been taken over, it can be recovered by first signing into WhatsApp using the linked phone number, and then authenticating the login by entering the verification PIN that is sent to the phone, the police said.
Many similar cases in the past
According to a similar advisory posted in early April this year, SPF had at that point in time, received at least 90 reports since January where WhatsApp accounts were taken over by scammers who employed the same method to trick victims.
The police noted that scammers would use compromised accounts to deceive unsuspecting victims into performing monetary transactions, transferring money over Money Online points, purchasing gift cards and sending over the passwords for the cards which are then sold online.
In May, SPF alerted members of the public about an overseas variant of the WhatsApp scam reported outside of Singapore.
In those cases, a scammer would reportedly take over a victim’s WhatsApp account and use it to post a fake screenshot of an account verification code in chat groups, claiming to alert members of WhatsApp account takeover scams, the police said.
Simultaneously, the scammer would use another device to log in to the accounts of the chat group members, resulting in them each receiving verification codes on their own device.
SPF added: “The intent of the scammers is to lure these chat group members to post screenshots of their verification codes in the chat group to share that that they are also experiencing the same situation. The scammers would then take over their WhatsApp accounts using the verification codes.”
People seeking scam-related advice can call the SPF’s anti-scam helpline or visit its Scam Alert website.