In January 2016, the WhatsApp instant message app discontinued its annual fee of $1, but a new scam tries to trick users into paying a subscription fee, reports The Independent. Some WhatsApp users have received a message advising their subscription has expired, and they need to verify their account and purchase a lifetime subscription for 0.99 GBP by clicking on a link and providing their payment information. However, WhatsApp, now owned by Facebook, has been free to download and use for the last 17 months.
The Independent advises users who receive the message to delete it and block the sender, so the scammers can’t send messages or call the user. Users who have clicked on the link are advised to run antivirus software on their mobile devices to be sure their devices were not affected with malware as part of the scam.
Used by more than 1 billion people in 180 countries, WhatsApp did not address this latest scam on their blog, but a user posted the message on WhatsApp’s Facebook page. The scammers ask WhatsApp users to forward the message to their entire contact lists, and they indicate the message is from WhatsApp’s CEO.
Though WhatsApp did not address this particular scam, it is not the first, nor will it be the last, so WhatsApp offers a generic FAQ about dealing with spam, hoaxes, scams and phishing messages. They suggest users watch out for these types of WhatsApp messages or emails:
- The sender claims an affiliation to WhatsApp.
- The message asks users to forward the message to other users.
- The message says you can avoid punishment, like having your account suspended, by forwarding the message.
- The message offers a reward or gift of some kind.
If users receive any of these types of messages, WhatsApp advises them to block the sender, disregard the message and delete it.
In addition to this advice, in February, on Safer Internet Day, WhatsApp posted these security tips to Facebook. The number #1 tip: “Don’t trust every message you receive, especially if it comes from someone you don’t know.”
Because of the volume of WhatsApp users worldwide, the free messaging service is an easy target for such a scam. With more than a billion users, if only 1 percent, or 100,000 users, believe the scam, the perpetrators would yield a sum of 99,000 GBP from one email at a price of 0.99 GBP per person.
While we are big proponents of transparency and would like to see the latest scam addressed on social media or on the WhatsApp blog, we can understand why WhatsApp would refrain from doing so. These scams occur frequently, and it would take a lot of time and energy to address each one. Instead, they are betting that a generic response will cover the majority of situations.