Since the start of the year, 268 unsuspecting individuals nationwide have reported falling prey to this deceptive scheme, with fraudsters infiltrating these groups to deceitfully coax money from members.
The scam often initiates with a WhatsApp audio call from the fraudster, who impersonates a group member to win trust. Using false profile images and display names, they cunningly appear genuine, hoodwinking even the most cautious of individuals.
Their ruse involves sending a one-time passcode to the victim, claiming it will enable them to join an upcoming video call. Under the guise of registration for the call, the fraudster requests the victim to share the passcode, which is, in reality, a means to hijack the victim's WhatsApp account and port it over to a new device.
Once control is gained, the fraudster enables two-step verification, barring the victim from their account. A deceitful cry for urgent financial aid is then broadcast to the victim's contacts, capitalising on the goodwill of group members.
"WhatsApp remains a favourite medium for both community groups and, unfortunately, fraudsters," warned Oliver Shaw, Detective Chief Superintendent and Head of Action Fraud and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB). Urging caution, he advises members to be skeptical of unexpected contact and never to share account details, even if the profile appears familiar.
To fend off such scams, Shaw recommends enabling two-step verification for an extra security layer. In the event of an unusual request, he advises members to call the individual to confirm their identity before taking any action.
Fraud or cybercrime victims are encouraged to report the matter at www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040, with Scotland residents asked to report to Police Scotland on 101. WhatsApp users can also report spam messages or block senders within the application.