The Most Common Scams on WhatsApp and Other Social Networks

From the ‘nice’ message from an unknown number on WhatsApp to the Wallapop scam, these are the five most common scams on the most used social networks of the moment.

The Most Common Scam on WhatsApp and Other Social Networks

The Most Common Scam on WhatsApp and Other Social Networks

David Megías, director of IN3, andJordi Serra, professor of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications Studies at the UOC, explain how they are produced and how to avoid falling into them.

Did you know that last year there were 6.1% more cybercrimes than in 2021? According to the latest Report on cybercrime in Spain, of the aforementioned percentage, 87.4% corresponds to computer fraud.

“Between the pandemic, the economic crisis and teleworking, we are more and more at home and we look for more establishments online or compare different offers on the Internet, and that is where more crimes can be committed, with offers that are never real.

People Young people already buy practically everything on the Internet, and look for the websites with the most advantages,” saysJordi Serra, professor at theUOC’s Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications Departmentand researcher in the K-riptography and Information Security for Open Networks (KISON) group.), from theInternet Interdisciplinary Institute(IN3).

The immediacy and ease of payment offered by moste-commercewhen buying online also encourages us to fall for deception, since we do not usually make sure that the payment method is legitimate and 100% secure.

To this is added that cybercriminals “improve their strategies to deceive a greater number of people and be more effective with the selection of their targets; in the end, it is a kind of ‘arms race ‘ between criminals and citizens,” he explains. David Megías, director of the UOC’s IN3 and professor of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications Studies.

According to experts, knowing the most common phone scams is key to protecting yourself from cybercriminals. Now, let’s learn about the most common frauds that occur on WhatsApp, TikTok and other Internet platforms.

Common scams on WhatsApp

This summer, the National Police alerted through a tweet about a very common WhatsApp scam known asthe WhatsApp ‘premium’. Cybercriminals send a ‘caring’ and close message posing as a relative (usually a ‘cousin’ or ‘distant uncle’), attempting to gain the victim’s trust by asking for money or personal information.

What to do to avoid the WhatsApp scam?

To avoid falling for this type of scam, it is advisablenot to provide personal data to strange numbers, unless the origin of said number is known.

“The best protection is prudence and not carrying out a transaction with a user unless we are completely sure that it is a legitimate operation,” says David Megías.

Another recommendation to avoid falling for smishing and vishing scams isto search for the unknown number on Googlesince it is common for cybercriminals to use the same phone lines for their scams, so it is possible that other users will alert you to said number.

Common scams on TikTok

With the rise of TikTok and other social networks, it is easy for millions of users to fallvictim to cybercrime through comments or private messages that redirect victims to a fraudulent platform.

Most of these scams use presumed opinions of well-known people, celebrities or social mediainfluencers as a hook.The same is true for networks like Facebook and Instagram.

How to avoid fraud on TikTok?

“The general advice is that no transaction is ever carried out because of having seen a link in a video or in a comment on a social network. The pages we visit to carry out our transactions must be fully verified,” advises Megías, director of IN3.

As TikTok is a social network where immediacy prevails, it is easy to fall for a cyber-scam.

“On the one hand, this encouragesphishing attacks,the sale of followers, etc. On the other, the very theme of the platform should alert us to any other practice that is not just viewing videos.

The recommendation is that it not be related to any system of payment or sale of products because it is very easy to create fake videos whose sole purpose is to deceive“, adds Serra.

Reverse Bizum, the online banking scam

The most widely used instant payment service at the moment, Bizum, has revolutionized the way in which we manage our personal finances on a day-to-day basis. With more than 15 million users, this application (famous among the youngest) has also been used to createsubtle scams.

So much so that the Civil Guard warned of a scam known asreverse Bizum, where the scammer sends us a request for money. If we are clueless, we believe that we are receiving money and we approve the reverse bizum, that is, the request for money that the scammer asks us for.

This scamis not caused by a security flaw in the Bizum application but rather takes advantage of the victim’s possible lack of attention. It is common for it to occur, above all, in people who do not know how to use online banking fluently or when we prioritize “rush” over attention.

What to do in the face of the reverse Bizum scam?

The best thing is to pay attention to the message we receive, find out where it comes from and act accordingly. “When we believe that we are receiving money through Bizum, we must stop for two seconds and see if it is really a transfer or if they are asking us for money,” advises the UOC professor.

In addition, as David Megías recalls, many of thescams related to Bizumoccur “through channels other than our bank’s application (for example, by SMS, WhatsApp, Telegram, email or even phone calls)”.

“We always have to be wary of channels that are not authenticated, even if we believe we know the person contacting us, because their identity could have been impersonated by a criminal,” adds the professor of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications Studies. .

The Wallapop scam

According to a study carried out by ThredUP’s Resale Report, it is estimated that in 2023, the second-hand market will reach 51,000 million dollars a year.

Platforms like Wallapop, Vinted or Ebay have become so popular among users that cybercriminals have also designed scams around them to take advantage, as the Internet User Security Office warned a few weeks ago.

Through this platform, it informs you that you have made the payment and provides you with a fraudulent link that impersonates the trading platform and forces the victim to enter their bank details to complete the process.

Both the Civil Guard and the platforms themselves warn of this type of fraud and ask their users not to provide bank details by means other than those of the platform itself.

“We must never trust people who ask us to pay outside the platform, because, in addition, there will be no record of the sale or purchase. For example, they can ask us for our credit card to make a payment or make a false reverse bizum” , explains Jordi Serra.

How to act against the Wallapop scam?

The best thing to avoid falling for the Wallapop scam isto manage all shipments and payments from the Wallapop platform, never from another means of communication (WhatsApp, email or links to other platforms).

“In the specific case of Wallapop, using Wallapop Envíos we do not pay anything until we receive the product, we have verified it and we accept the payment through the application itself.

This is the safest way to operate and it is difficult for them to impersonate us in payments if we have a good authentication method and use a secure password, in addition to carrying out good maintenance on our device to avoid the presence of malicious software”, points out David Megías.

The Bitcoin scam (and its management)

In the face of the unknown and complex, better caution. It is said that bitcoins are the currency of the future, so much so that many public figures, businessmen, actors and actressesinvest their capital in bitcoins. This is the case of the creator of Tesla, Elon Musk, of the soccer player, Lionel Messi, or the actress, Gwyneth Paltrow.

However, investing in cryptocurrencies is not something to be taken lightly, as it is a complex system and whose assets are highly volatile, that is, the price of the currency varies constantly.

In addition, when someone invests in bitcoins, they must learn to manage and operate with them. If you don’t know how to do it, you can put your capital in the hands of aregulated broker,or you can also manage it through an authorized official application. It is at this point thatthere is a risk of fraud.

As David Megías explains, “multiple cryptocurrency, wallet and key management platforms have appeared, and, obviously, some criminals have taken advantage of the complexity of these systems to offer fraudulent services or pyramid schemes.

Many of these services offerfalse cryptocurrencies behind an apparently solvent technological platform. We are surprised if we try to withdraw money since it is either impossible or we face multiple obstacles to do so.”

It must be taken into account that the virtual currency system is based on a public key cryptography scheme and it is necessary to safeguard (and not lose) the private keys, which are what allow us to carry out transactions.

As themanagement of these keys is complex \, devices with specific hardware have appeared, as well as mobile applications that allow the keys to be managed in the so-called cryptocurrency purses (wallets), which facilitates the management and custody of these keys.

However, the authenticity of such media must be verified because giving away private keys is generally a bad idea since anyone with access to them can carry out transactions.

What to do in the event of a bitcoin fraud?

The main advice of the experts isnever to entrust our money to intermediaries or presumed brokersif we do not have guarantees of its authenticity, “and not to leave the known platforms whose solvency has been proven.”

“Nor should we believe supposed news from celebrities recommending a certain platform if we are not sure of its origin: this is usually a common way of fraud,” explains the director of IN3.

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