Monday 26 September 2016

Targeted by new WhatsApp scam? Here's how to avoid it

Cara McGoogan

Published 26/05/2016 | 07:54

WhatsApp users are reporting receiving a message encouraging them to switch to a premium version of the app called WhatsApp Gold, which actually contains malicious software.

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A picture circulating on Twitter suggests that the spammer has contacted users through the official WhatsApp and told them to upgrade to the "golden version" until now only available to celebrities. The new version supposedly lets users make video calls, send 100 pictures at once, and delete messages after they've sent them. 

Fake third party apps can download malicious software onto devices that tracks users, and steals their personal data and files. 

It is not clear how many people have been affected by the scam - or if it's even real. The Telegraph did not find WhatsApp Gold in the Android or iOS app stores, and the website address in the message leads to a 404 error page.

While there is little evidence that suggests the WhatsApp Gold "scam" is widespread, the hoax is reminiscent of several other recent scams, such as the WhatsApp Plus app that is still affecting users. 

WhatsApp Plus claims to let users send pictures, videos and music files of an umlimited size, and use WhatsApp with more than one number. But the app is not associated with WhatsApp and the Facebook-owned service bans users who have also downloaded the fake app onto their device. 

"WhatsApp Plus is an application that was not developed by WhatsApp, nor is it authorised by WhatsApp," said the company. "WhatsApp Plus contains source code which WhatsApp cannot guarantee as safe and that your private information is potentially being passed to 3rd parties without your knowledge or authorisation." 

WhatsApp blocks users that have downloaded the unsolicited version of the app. After the fake app is deleted WhatsApp waits 24 hours before reinstating the ability for users to use the official service. 

How to protect yourself

WhatsApp advises its users that it will never send them a message asking them to upgrade or download another app. The company stresses that it will only message users if they start the conversation through an official contact such as email. The service is also victim to spam, hoax and phishing messages, in the same way that SMS and email are.

Messages to pay particular attention to include those in which the sender claims to be associated with WhatsApp, if the sender asks you to forward the message, and if it offers you a reward.

If you receive a suspicious message WhatsApp recommends you report it to the company, "block the sender, disregard the message and delete it". 

Another way to protect yourself is to avoid downloading third party apps not created by WhatsApp, including those that let you spy on your friends. 

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