WhatsApp users are being warned to beware of a new scam that involves someone hacking their account and attempting to extort money from their contacts. Social media has been inundated with users claiming their contacts have been harassed by someone asking them for money, with the number of people being targeted on the rise.

It is believed that those who have not activated their WhatsApp’s two-step verification are more susceptible to the scam, as this security step makes it more difficult to access the victim’s app.

The fraudsters reportedly gain control of the victim’s WhatsApp by making use of number porting. When these scammers port the victim’s cellphone number, the person being hijacked should receive a message from their operator that allows them to block the porting request. This, however, is not an opt out system, as the victim has less than an hour to respond to the SMS. If the porting request is not blocked, it is automatically approved.

Once the fraudster has access to the victim’s WhatsApp, the contacts are asked for money under the guise of an emergency. Often, they ask that the cash is transferred immediately via an electronic cash-send service such as the FNB’s eWallet system.

Most of the users being targeted seem to belong to the Vodacom or MTN networks.

If a user has not two-step verified their WhatsApp, they may be locked out of their accounts for at least a week.

Picture: Unsplash

Article written by

Lucinda Dordley

Lucinda is a hard news writer who occasionally dabbles in lifestyle writing, and recent journalism graduate. She is a proud intersectional feminist, and is passionate about actively creating a world which is free of discrimination and inequality.