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WhatsApp scammers increasingly professional: anyone can be a victim

The Dutch have already lost millions of euros this year due to WhatsApp fraud. Who are these WhatsApp scam artists anyway?

Who are these WhatsApp scammers?

Anyone with a phone number has probably received a text message in which it appears as if the bank is seeking contact. “Your Banking app expires for use. Connect your new app now ”or“ To prevent your debit card from being restricted, you must replace your debit card on time ”. If you know anything about phishing, you do not fall for it and you never tap on the attached links. But what’s happening on WhatsApp right now is a completely different story.

Friend-in-emergency fraud or help request fraud via WhatsApp is more realistic and, above all, much more personal. In a series of messages, a child tells a parent or grandparent that he / she has a new phone number. Not much later they are asked to transfer money, because otherwise something bad will happen. “I’ll return it tomorrow!” Of course you do not let your dear (grand) child sit in need, so you make some money. Not knowing that there is a scammer on the other side of the messages and the famous profile picture. In this way, hundreds of people fall victim to WhatsApp fraud every year. This year more than ever.


Figures from the Fraud Help Desk show that more than 1,200 people were defrauded on 1 November 2020 this year. Together, these people have already paid 3.7 million euros. This mainly concerns people over the age of 55 who fall victim via WhatsApp. These people often have adult children and usually also have accumulated savings. It is wrongly believed that this target group is mainly a victim of ignorance about smartphones, apps and digital banking. It’s not that simple.

Scammers are sophisticated

If you’ve never been a target of WhatsApp fraud yourself, you’ve probably seen these conversations pop up on social media. People get a message from someone pretending to be their child, while they don’t have a child at all. Then they try to play the game for fun. Screenshots of these conversations are doing well on Twitter and Facebook.

These are random attacks, in which a wide net is thrown in the hope that someone will kick them anyway. But scammers are much more sophisticated about this form of WhatsApp fraud. For example, they scour your and your children’s social media to see what is going on in your life and what your language use is. Think about which emoji you use. The attacks are then set up so precisely that everyone can kick in. You don’t have to be old for that with little knowledge about smartphones.

Who are they

“It is becoming safer on the street, but online crime is on the rise,” says police spokesman Bobby Markus. Android Planet. But who exactly are the scammers? The police cannot say much about that: “It is not really a type. You can’t put it in a box. ” The police are trying to get a picture by making connections between all reports that come in.

“That is quite an exercise,” says Markus. “We have gone from 120 reports per week to 100 reports per day.” This is because the police added the option to file a report online in April. Among those reports are also people who have not been victims, but have received the question from a scammer.

According to the police, a few things are now clear. “People involved in WhatsApp fraud also often engage in other types of fraud,” says Markus. As an example, the spokesperson cites the sale of fitness equipment via a rogue webshop. The second is that criminals are becoming more and more professional.

WhatsApp scammers

Criminal industry

It is not the case that a scammer does everything himself. It is a criminal industry in which everyone has their own role. Research by RTL Nieuws has shown that criminals sell lists with names, addresses, 06 numbers and the name of the bank where the person is a customer. These are ‘fresh leads’, which means that the individuals on these lists have never been contacted by a scammer before. That is interesting, because it is much more likely that that person will fall for it. These lists, with mainly people over 50, are sold through criminal forums and chat groups with sometimes hundreds to thousands of members.

By making these leads as extensive as possible, with extra information found via social media, for example, more money can be asked. For example, money is already being made with WhatsApp fraud before anyone has received a message.

Then there are also cat catchers, for example. These are people who make their account number available to scammers. The scammer uses that account number to transfer the money safely, while the cat catcher leaves a part in the account.

whatsapp scammers

What’s next?

So, these scam artists are quite professional and should not be underestimated. They also make smart use of current affairs, Marloes Kolthof, director of the Fraud Helpdesk, tells Android Planet: “People are now more digital and scammers just use it”. Yet the growth of WhatsApp fraud is not only a result of the corona crisis, Markus knows: “The increase in digital crime was already there before corona”.

The most important thing to know about these scam artists is that they are always coming up with new ways to knock people out of their pockets. “In recent weeks, we have also seen, for example, that if the victim easily falls for it, the fraudster contacts the victim again with the offer to help. And then even more money is taken away, ”says Kolthof. The police see bank helpdesk fraud on the rise. Via ‘spoofing’ it appears on your mobile that you are calling the bank. You see ING on your screen and then you actually get someone on the line.

The Fraud Help Desk and the police are running campaigns to raise awareness about WhatsApp fraud and also try to reach people who don’t spend much time on the internet. Kolthof therefore hopes to see a quick decrease in WhatsApp fraud, but it does not end there: “Then they will find another channel.” So the most important thing is to always stay alert.

Protect yourself

It is precisely because these criminals are so smart that anyone can become a victim of WhatsApp fraud. There are several ways to ensure that you and your loved ones get off this dance. We list the most important ones:

  • Never transfer money based on a text message, via SMS or WhatsApp. For example, call the person or company behind the message.
  • Set up two-factor authentication. WhatsApp fraud can also happen due to someone hacking into a WhatsApp account. You keep these people out via two-factor verification.
  • Do not share too much personal information online about your living situation and what you are experiencing. In doing so, you give scammers the tools to fool you or your loved ones.
  • Inform your parents and other loved ones. You probably know it all, but your parents or grandparents may not. Explain to them what to look out for and agree on how you communicate about zld affairs.

Also check out our article with five more tips to recognize and prevent WhatsApp fraud. Also read how you can prevent Tikkie fraud.

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