Internet and message scams are easy to pull off - GulfToday

Internet and message scams are easy to pull off

Birjees Hussain

She has more than 10 years of experience in writing articles on a range of topics including health, beauty, lifestyle, finance, management and Quality Management.

Illustrative image.

Illustrative image.

The other day I received a WhatsApp message from someone posing as an employee of the Central Bank of the UAE. The message had an attachment which had the central bank logo and was written in both English and Arabic. It told me that my account had been frozen and to call another mobile number with my details. Once the details had been confirmed, my account would be unfrozen. Of course, I knew that the WhatsApp message wasn’t from Central Bank. I also knew that no bank in the world communicates with its customers via a messaging App.

This wasn’t the first time I had received such a message on WhatsApp. Moreover, I am not the only one who has ever received such a message on this App. Unfortunately, these scammers rely on people’s ignorance in order to succeed. Unlike me, there are many people who will ring the number, and panic stricken that their account will never be unfrozen, happily give out any bank account related information that the scammer asks for.

WhatsApp scams are becoming rampant. Posing as someone else is the name of the game. If they’re not posing as some government or bank official, they’ll pose as a family member, usually a distraught parent or a teenage son or daughter in financial trouble.

In the child in trouble scam, also known as ‘the son and daughter scam’, the scammer poses as the son or daughter by writing a very generic message which runs something like, ‘Hi mum’ or ‘hi dad’, then going on to say something about losing his phone and was calling from a new phone with a new number and to update their contact. Then he’ll go on to ask for some money to cover the cost of the new phone or to pay off an urgent bill. The scammer banks on the victim, the parent, immediately jumping into action to help their child in trouble, and without doing any of the necessary checks to confirm that it is indeed their child who is messaging them.

The other scam is the mum and dad scam. In this case the scammer poses as the victim’s elderly parent (mum or dad). The general message this time is that mum’s out shopping but lost her phone and on top of that she took the wrong card with her. ‘She’ then asks if he or she could send £240 to this bank account. The child, without hesitation or doing the necessary verifications, will send the money thinking that poor old mum, or poor old dad, is in trouble.

There are also WhatsApp messages going around where the recipient is asked to complete a survey on their experience of using the WhatsApp messaging platform. The recipient is told that, upon completing the survey, their name would be entered into a draw to win a prize. They then receive a message that they’d won the prize but in order to claim it, they needed to pay a small processing fee to a certain account. The payment is made but there’s no prize.

To be fair, such scams are not confined to just WhatsApp. I recently sent a link to my YouTube channel to a friend on Facebook. I immediately got a message back from him asking me to answer a security question to confirm I was Birjees. Clearly he thought someone had hacked my account and was posing as me with a phishing link. In fact, several of my Facebook friends have had their Facebook accounts hacked and weird messages sent to their friends.

It’s not just Facebook though. Instagram also has its fair share of scammers. My professor messaged me saying someone had stolen his Instagram photo and created a fake account in his name. The scammer has begun to follow all my professor’s followers, including me. It was so subtle, I didn’t even notice that he’d changed just one letter in my professor’s surname. It only came to light when my professor alerted me.

About 3 months ago, I got an Instagram follower. As courtesy I followed back but, as soon as I did, within minutes I received a strange message from what looked like a woman from the profile picture. She asked if I’d be interested in some kind of grant. When I did not respond, she kept messaging me with question marks. When I continued to ignore her, she gave up.

Because of social media and the internet, we will always have scammers because of the ease with which scams can be pulled off. We need to, therefore, learn to protect ourselves by doing our own due diligence every time we receive odd messages from unknown numbers.

Some of the things we can do are fairly easy and simple to do. These include never clicking on links, never downloading and opening odd attachments from odd email addresses and never sending money to an unknown number. If someone is posing as your parent, child or sibling, confirm that it is them by calling them on the number in your contacts list. This is a way of verifying if they really did lose their mobile. But don’t forget, if someone does lose their phone, the first thing they would do is to get the local telecom provider to issue them the same SIM number! And finally, if a message tells you you’ve won some prize, the chances are you have not.

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