WhatsApp fraud on the rise

Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, and Telegram apps
Icons for the Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, and Telegram apps displayed on a phone in 2018inkytapeDepositPhotosDeposit Photos

The number of cases of WhatsApp fraud, in which criminals hijack a number, impersonate someone and ask their friends and family for money, increased sharply over the past months, the Fraud Help Desk reported. The total number of fraud reports increased from around 6,500 per month between December and February to 15 thousand in April. The largest part of that increase was WhatsApp fraud, NOS reports.

There were also more reports of scam letters made to look like they're from the Tax Authority and phishing emails. "But WhatsApp fraud showed the largest increase in victims," Marloes Kolthof of the Fraud Help Desk said to NOS. "The attackers are getting better, so many people fall for it." The sharp increase may also have to do with the coronavirus crisis, she said. "We think that the corona crisis certainly plays a role, also because it is less easy to get together and more needs to be done digitally."

In WhatsApp fraud, victims will often get a message from a friend, family member of acquaintance, saying they have an emergency and urgently need some money. They'll make an excuse why they can't call. "The crooks do their homework well," Kolthof said. "They see who someone is friends with on social media and they use it."

If you suddenly receive an unexpected request for money, the Fraud Help Desk recommends that you call the person asking, or visit them. You can also contact someone close to them, like a spouse or partner. "Or ask a question that only you and the other person know the answer to."