Now, frauds are taking place also via WhatsApp!
The first step to avoid becoming a victim of fraud is to recognize that you can be one.
By: Edda Pujadas
DORAL, FL – It is true that everyday activities such as buying things and banking or even working and studying have become easier and quicker due to the use of internet. But the use of new technology has also made our personal information more vulnerable and it makes it easier to be expose to fraud.
According to the last survey conducted by Data Connectors, cyber-crimes will cost an estimated $6 billion dollars by the end of 2021 and more than 60% of these will have been originated by a mobile device. This survey also indicates that at least 43% of the existing companies have been victims of a cyber-security violation in the last 12 months.
There are criminals that use internet to scam millions of people every year. Through software and digital services, they trick people into sending them money and they get hold of their personal information, this allows them to get their personal mobile cellular phone numbers and even data pertaining to their families with which they extort them.
Ray Valdes, Public Information Officer for the Doral Police Department told us that even when there are thousands of cases of cyber or phone scams, a common aspect on all of them is that these come from the use of personal data obtained through the internet. He shared with us the case of a lady that received a telephone call stating that her grandson had been responsible of a traffic accident.
“Obviously, they took advantage of the vulnerability of the lady and they requested her to send via Fedex the amount of $7,500 to an address in Doral, this in order to avoid that her grandson was taken to jail, therefore she complied. When her husband realized what had happened, he informed the Orlando Police Department, where they were at the moment and they contacted us. We dispatch the corresponding surveillance to the destination address in the Fedex guide and we were able to catch the criminals,” comments Valdes.
Another case that Valdes remembers is the case of a young lady that received a phone call in which they indicated that she was identified as a member of a drug and money laundering network and that her accounts have been compromised. The only chance for her to give a good faith proof that she was not that person, was to send $20,000 in cash to an address in New York.
Other cases involve requests of money transfers in order to avoid police charges and/or to help family members; another type that is also frequent is people that get reports of frauds to bank accounts. “As you can see, the handling of personal information and phone numbers is common in these cases,” adds Valdes.
According to the webpage: https://www.usa.gov/ from the United States Government, some of the common cases of cyber-crime include the leaking of confidential data (either personal or financial). These can be stolen from either your personal computer or from a company that has your personal information.
They also note the existence of malicious programs or “malware”, designed to damage computers and computer systems. “Phishing” and “spoofing” is another type of fraud, in these, scammers use fake email addresses, texts or fake websites to try to steal your personal information or identity. They try to get your credit card numbers, bank account numbers, credit card PIN number and passwords.
Online auction fraud is also mentioned, this involves the misrepresentation of an advertised product in an auction website, or the non-delivery of a product purchased in an online auction, while the credit card fraud is when the scammers get money or property in a fraudulent way, through the use of a credit or debit card.
A new type of scam has surface now through WhatsApp. The fact that this app counts with more than 600 million users around the world has turn it into an attractive tool to trick people. Among the most common scams is the invitation to phone calls through malicious programs together with the invite to download virus that steal the information from your computer when it is downloaded through the WhatsApp web application.
Another modality is the “answering machine”. A program that makes us believe that we have a WhatsApp message and when we try to listen to it, it downloads malicious software in our cellular phone. Finally, and the most dangerous of all is the modality that abuses the verification process of the SMS accounts to take control of the WhatsApp of its users.
Under this scheme, victims receive a text message from a foreign number from which a link and a code are sent. They immediately receive a message from a WhatsApp contact requesting to send back the code and seconds later they lose control of their WhatsApp to the person that sent the malicious message.
As a result of the above, a virtual kidnapping takes place, in this the attacker gets hold of the telephone number and WhatsApp application of the victim from a different phone, granting them complete access to the victim’s messages, his name, groups and chats. This has allowed scams in which the criminal poses as a family member requesting money to have a medical procedure done, for example.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF?
For Officer Rey Valdes from the Doral Police Department, the fact that you recognize and understand that you can in fact be a victim of fraud is the first step to prevent it. “This will allow you to recognize the alarm signals by using your common sense. For example, no formal company, nor the government will require immediate payment (even less in cash), nor gift cards.”
Valdes highlights that there are thousands of companies that are in charge of tracking personal and preference information and telephone numbers with the purpose of helping marketing and sales forces, but there are also those that unfortunately use these tools to break into the data and use it for criminal purposes and/or extorsion.
It is important to learn how to recognize the signals of fraud. For example, if you have not requested a verification code and you receive a message with a verification link, do not share it with anyone, do not click on the link. Always keep your anti-virus programs and firewalls for your computer, updated.
Do not share your password or sensible information with anyone. Do not use the same password for different accounts. Try to create unpredictable passwords and avoid using names, dates and/or common words. Do not share your personal information through websites without encrypting.
Virtual Private Networks or VPNs are being used more and more every day in order to protect the privacy of the people while working online. However, and even when we all are more aware of the risks of clicking on a link or opening an unknown email, the numbers show that cyber-attacks are on the rise. With technology in constant evolution, hackers are also evolving, so we have to be alert at all times.