Popular mobile messaging platform WhatsApp now has one billion active users worldwide. Its rising popularity has also made it an attractive ground for fraudsters. Scammers are targeting WhatsApp users by sending legitimate-looking links as part of an existing conversation loop. The scam messages promise to offer vouchers for places like Zara and Starbucks.

WhatsApp
Image Credit: This is Money

WhatsApp users have no reason to doubt the legitimacy of messages

Users have no reason to believe that it was a scam. This is Money reports that some of its readers almost fell for the scam. The message simply read “Look” along with a link to a fake website where the user is required to complete a survey before she can obtain a gift voucher at clothing giant Zara. Unsuspecting users click the legitimate-looking link that comes as part of an already active conversation with a contact.

The message spreads like wildfire because scammers convince users to forward the message to their 10 contacts so that they can receive a certain promotion. Some scam messages require users to register with their basic details such as name, email, phone number and address. Fraudsters then install malware on the unsuspecting user’s phone.

Scammers are becoming like marketers

Kaspersky Lab principal security researcher David Emm said WhatsApp’s prevalence in India and Europe has caught the attention of scammers. Emm added that this WhatsApp scam “speaks” several languages, so the attacks can be easily customized for each market. He said the campaign was for scamming and installing malware on your phone. In recent weeks, WhatsApp has been abused to spread Trojan bankers, a type of malware that tries to hijack your banking transactions on mobile.

Kaspersky Lab said the number of WhatsApp scams is rising rapidly. Last month, several cases were reported where Android users were trying to update the messaging app, but they accidentally installed malware that stole their data. Scammers are increasingly becoming like marketers, trying to use creative and compelling subject lines the spread malware.