Singapore Police have alerted the people to a new variant of WhatsApp scam that involves sharing the snapshot of verification code by the members of chat group in response to a fake "scam alert."
The "new variant" this time seems to be an improvement over the January 2019 scam where the verification code was sought through a simple Whatsapp message. Once the trick got known, the scammers have switched to sharing the snapshot of verification code, luring other to do the same.
The modus operandi remains the same – scammer first breaks into account of one member of the group, generate a verification code, take the snapshot, share in the group, asks whether they too have received any alert asking verification code – which is generated while the scammer tries to log into their account using another device.
Once, the group members share the snapshot of the verification code, their accounts are gone.
Revealing the modus operandi of the scammers, Singapore Police said, “In these cases, after taking over a victim’s WhatsApp account, scammers would post a fake screenshot of a WhatsApp account verification code in chat groups using the account, under the guise of alerting chat group members to Whatsapp account takeover scams. Concurrently, the scammer would use another device to attempt to log in to the WhatsApp accounts of the chat group members. As a result, these members would each receive WhatsApp verification codes on their own device.”
“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 they are also experiencing the same situation. The scammers would then take over their WhatsApp accounts using the verification codes,” they added.
Scammers have been known to use the compromised accounts to deceive unsuspecting victims into performing monetary transfers or sending over Money Online (MOL) points or purchasing gift cards and sending over the password for the cards. The scammers then sold the gift cards online.
Singapore Police have advised people to adopt the following crime prevention measures:
- Do not share your account verification codes with anyone;
- Beware of unusual requests received over WhatsApp, even if they were sent by your WhatsApp contacts;
- Always call your friend to verify the authenticity of the request, but do not do so through the social media platform as the account might have been taken over by scammers; and
- Protect your WhatsApp account by enabling the ‘Two-Step Verification’ feature, which is available under ‘Account’ in the ‘Settings’ tab of your WhatsApp application. This will prevent others from compromising your WhatsApp account;
- If your WhatsApp account has been taken over by a scammer, you can recover the account by signing into your WhatsApp using your phone number and authenticate by entering the verification PIN which you will receive on your phone. The scammer which is using your account will automatically be logged out thereafter.
If people want to provide any information related to such scams, they can call the Police hotline at 1800-255-0000, or submit it online at www.police.gov.sg/iwitness. For urgent Police assistance, people should dial ‘999’.
For seeking scam-related advice, members of the public can call the anti-scam helpline at 1800-722-6688 or log on to www.scamalert.sg.