WhatsApp launches ‘STOP. THINK. CALL.’ campaign to stamp out message-based scams

WhatsApp is launching the STOP. THINK. CALL., in partnership with the National Trading Standards’ Friends Against Scams campaign. The campaign aims to help educate the public on how to protect themselves and their WhatsApp account from message-based scams.

Almost three fifths of Brits (59%) say they have received a message-based scam in the last year – or know someone who has. According to recent research, these types of scam messages have been sent both via SMS text message (46%), or WhatsApp (13%), and unfortunately appear to be increasingly common.

WhatsApp wants to make sure that people understand how they can protect themselves, so has enlisted a ‘Scambassador’, Joel Dommett, once a victim of a scam himself, to help share some simple advice that can keep people safe.

WhatsApp, Friends Against Scams and Joel Dommett are calling on the British public to STOP. THINK. CALL. before they respond to a suspicious or unusual message.

  • STOP: Take Five before you respond. Make sure your WhatsApp two-step verification is switched on to protect your account; that you’re happy with your privacy settings, and your six-digit pin is secure.
  • THINK: Does this request make sense? Are they asking you to share a PIN code which they have had sent to you? Are they asking for money? Remember that scammers prey on people’s kindness, trust and willingness to help.
  • CALL: Verify that it really is your friend or family member by calling them directly, or asking them to share a voice note.Only when you’re 100% sure the request is from someone you know and trust, should you consider it. If it turns out to be untrue, report It to Action Fraud.

Joel Dommett, campaign Scambassador, commented: “As someone who has fallen victim to a scam myself, I know, personally, how stupid and embarrassed it makes you feel. It’s important that we do as much as we can to raise awareness of all the different ways that scammers out there prey on vulnerable people. Simply remembering to ‘Stop. Think. Call.’ when you get an unusual message may save you a lot of money and inconvenience in the long run.”

“We are seeing an increasing number of reports of ‘Friend in need’ scams in recent months,” commented Louise Baxter, Head of the National Trading Standards Scams Team and Friends Against Scams. “Scammers send messages that appear to come from a friend or family member asking for personal information, money, or a six-digit PIN number. The messages are sent from the compromised accounts of your friends, so they look as if they’re coming from someone you know, or from an unknown number claiming to be a friend who has lost their phone or been ‘locked out’ of their account. These kinds of scams are particularly cruel as they prey on our kindness and desire to help friends and family.”

According to recent research from WhatsApp, three-fifths (60%) of those surveyed believe that email is the most common platform on which scams happen, followed by phone call (47%), text message (46%) and WhatsApp (17%).

In addition, the research showed that younger age groups (under-34) are almost 10 times more likely to prefer a text-based method of communication to a phone call (89% v 9%). This reliance on messaging by ‘Generation Text’ – those who have grown up with mobile phones – may be putting them more at risk of text-based scams. Indeed, recent research from Citizens Advice reveals that, while over 55s are the most likely to be targeted, those 34 and under are almost five times more likely to fall victim to a scam than their older counterparts.

Kathryn Harnett, Policy Manager at WhatsApp, commented: “WhatsApp protects our users’ personal messages with end-to-end encryption, but we want to remind people that we all have a role to play in keeping our accounts safe by remaining vigilant to the threat of scammers. We advise all users never to share their six-digit PIN code with others, not even friends or family, and recommend that all users set up two-step verification for added security. And if you receive a suspicious message (even if you think you know who it’s from), calling or requesting a voice note is the fastest and simplest way to check someone is who they say they are. A friend in need is a friend worth calling.”

Citizens Advice Scams Action is lending its support to the campaign, having seen an increase in messaging scams over the past year, including ‘friend-in-need’ scams such as:

  • A scammer who posed as a friend-in-need saying they were stuck abroad and had to find hundreds of pounds to get home. When the person said they were unable to help they were blocked.
  • A parent who realised that a scammer was posing as their son asking for money via WhatsApp. Luckily they called their son to check and realised it was a scam.
  • A parent who received a WhatsApp message supposedly from their daughter saying they’d had to change their number. It went on to ask for help paying a bill but the parent was suspicious of the request and realised it was a scam.

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