Highlights

  • Senior government officials being impersonated on WhatsApp by fraudsters
  • Cyber criminals seek money, favours on WhatsApp in the name of officials
  • Do not reply to messages from unknown numbers even if DP is known

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WhatsApp scams target IAS, police officers: 3 types of frauds, precautions explained

Recently, a senior IAS officer in Jammu and Kashmir, and the police chief of Chandigarh claimed that they were impersonated on WhatsApp by scammers who contacted their acquaintances to fleece them.

Beware! Behind that WhatsApp message from a new number with your friend's profile picture could be a fraudster. WhatsApp scams have started cropping up in alarming numbers recently. And they're growing more and more audacious.

Recently, a senior IAS officer in Jammu and Kashmir claimed that he had become a victim of cyber fraud. Shahid Choudhary accused scamsters of impersonating him on WhatsApp by using his photograph. The criminals allegedly contacted Choudhary's friends and colleagues and sought financial help.

Days earlier, Chandigarh's police chief was targeted in a similar way. Fraudsters posed as Praveer Ranjan on WhatsApp and asked the DGP's acquintances to send Amazon gift cards.

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In March, a similar scam took place in Kerala. A teacher in Kollam was duped of ₹14 lakh after fraudsters sent WhatsApp messages posing as Kerala's police chief. The teacher was told that she had won the lottery and would be booked if tax was not paid on the winnings. The number used to send the messages was reportedly registered in an Assam native's name.

Recent cases have highlighted at least 3 types of common scams which are perpetrated through WhatsApp and Facebook.

The first is WhatsApp hijacking. Scamsters try to log into their target's WhatsApp account by using that person's phone number. Then, to get the verification pin, the criminals pose as WhatsApp technicians. If the target shares the PIN, then scamsters gain access to the person's WhatsApp account. Subsequently, they send messages to the target's friends and family seeking money, or further OTPs.

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The second type is the WhatsApp DP scam which we told you about earlier. For this, a WhatsApp account is created using a fake or virtual SIM. Then a government official's photograph is set as the profile picture. Subsequently, messages are sent to unsuspecting people seeking money or other favours.

Another type of scam involves fake Facebook accounts. In this, scamsters create fake accounts of their targets and then contact the target's friends and family. Covid troubles, and financial crisis are common excuses used by scamsters to seek money in this type of con.

With such cases emerging in various parts of the country, authorities have been spreading awareness and telling people how to stay safe.

Some of the basic precautions include not replying to messages from unknown numbers even if the profile picture is of a person whom you know. Do not transfer money without verifying the request offline with the person asking for help.

Do not share OTPs, passwords, bank details, and credit and debit card information under any circumstances. Do not install remote access apps, and do not click on suspicious links. Also, secure your social media accounts by enabling two-factor authentication.

Cyber criminals prey on people's lack of awareness to carry out their cons. So share this information as widely as possible to make such scams virtually impossible.

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