Scamwatch: warning to WhatsApp users

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Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles giving you the lowdown on the scams they use to trick people out of their hard-earned cash - and how to avoid being taken in by them.

This week, a new scam targeting WhatsApp users with malicious software designed to allow criminals access to their details.

How does it work?

WhatsApp users are reporting receiving a message encouraging them to switch to a supposedly premium version of the app called WhatsApp Gold, which actually contains malicious software that tracks users, and steals their personal data and files.

The hoax is reminiscent of the recent WhatsApp Plus scam, an app that promised users the chance to send files of unlimited size and use WhatsApp with more than one number, but actually got them blocked by WhatsApp due to security concerns.

"With WhatsApp Plus, your private information is potentially being passed to third parties without your knowledge or authorisation," Facebook-owned WhatsApp said.

How can I avoid being caught out?

WhatsApp says that it will never send users a message asking them to upgrade or download another app. Anyone who receives a message of this nature claiming to be from WhatsApp should therefore "block the sender, disregard the message and delete it".

Other messages to be wary of include those in which the sender asks you to forward the message or offers you a reward for signing up.

It is also sensible to avoid downloading third party apps not created by WhatsApp, including those that let you spy on your friends.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?

If you are caught out by a scam linked to a service such as WhatsApp, it is a good idea to report the incident to the company so that it can take action to prevent other people being taken in.

You should also report it to Action Fraud (0300 123 2040) and change any passwords and log in details that may have been compromised.

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