WhatsApp Scams in Singapore

WhatsApp is the leading messenger app in Singapore, it is the popular platform associated with one’s colleagues, friends and family, hence, trust has been established. Scammers are looking to abuse this trust to gain an entry point to not just one’s personal details, conversations and photographs, but to their contacts as well.

What this shows is that other than just malware and viruses, scammers are looking at social engineering as another form of cyberattack. 

With Singapore leading the region with more than 100% mobile penetration, Singaporeans have become more reliant on such digital services. As such, we also need to be more cyber-savvy and cautious when it comes to detecting potential threats and being proactive, rather than reactive in protecting our data.

Here’s what you should do to avoid phishing attacks via text or WhatsApp:

  1. If you have the slightest doubt about the authenticity of any text, always check.  If you receive a suspicious text from a friend, message that friend on a separate messaging tool, or call them, to check. Do not reply to that text, as this informs the scammer that you’re a “warm lead”.
  2. Note shortened URLs – Scammers often mask ‘fake’ sites using URL shortening services like Bitly or TinyURL. Users should be wary of such shortened links as common sites like Apple, Spotify or Netflix typically do not shorten their links as it raises user suspicion.  

  3. Make a habit of creating strong passwords to all social media applications and other applications on your mobile. Simple passwords can be easily cracked by seasoned hackers, and if you repeat them across applications, hacking just one application gives them access to all.  Better yet, use a reliable password manager which can set and remember defyingly long and complex passwords for you
  4. Enable multifactor (or two-factor) authentication for all services that provide it as an option and consider not using important services that do not offer this critical security option. Users can enable two-step verification for Whatsapp under Account > Two-step verification. This feature will require a PIN when registering your phone number with WhatsApp again.

By Sim Beng Hai, Technical Sales Manager, APAC, ESET

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