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Singapore WhatsApp users urged to watch out for phishing scams

20 Apr 2018

The Singapore Police Force is warning citizens who use the popular messaging app WhatsApp to be vigilant, after reports of scammers taking over compromised accounts.

According to an advisory, the scam is a variant of a scam widely reported overseas. Scammers gain access to a compromised account and then send messages to the account’s contacts.

The messages request WhatsApp account verification codes, which are usually sent by SMS to a recipient.

Those victims who gave the scammers access to the verification codes would then be locked out of their own account and lose access.

Scammers use the compromised accounts and their contacts to trick people into buying gift cards, and then sending over the password for those cards. The scammers then sell the cards online.

ESET APAC technical sales manager Sim Beng Hai says WhatsApp is a popular application in Singapore, associated with friends, family, and colleagues.

Scammers are now abusing this trust to gain access to personal details, conversations, photographs, and contacts.

Those affected by the scam can call the Singapore Police Hotline or contact the National Crime Prevention Council’s anti-scam helpline on 1800-722-6688.

Sim Beng Hai offers some tips to avoid phishing attacks via text or WhatsApp:

- 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”.

- 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.  

- 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

- 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.

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