Scamwatch: new WhatsApp fraud

The messaging service is being targeted by criminals.

Sad Young Man with Mobile Phone at the table

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, we issue a warning about the latest scam aimed at users of popular instant messaging service WhatsApp.

How does it work?

Fraudsters are once again targeting WhatsApp users, this time with a message telling them their accounts will be deleted unless they forward the message to all their contacts.

"We are requesting all users to forward this message to their entire contact list," the fraudulent message reads.

"If you do not forward this message, we will take it as your account is invalid and it will be deleted within the next 48 hours.

"Please DO NOT ignore this message or whatsapp will no longer recognise your activation. If you wish to re-activate your account after it has been deleted, a charge of 25.00 will be added to your monthly bill."

In reality, the message is sent by criminals keen to gain access to more WhatsApp accounts so they can reach more people with future scams.

How can I avoid being caught out?

WhatsApp is a free service, so any messages claiming that it is planning to start charging should be treated with extreme caution - especially if they require you to click on a link or forward them on.

You should also look out for messages, like this one, that include spelling or grammar mistakes, as this is often a sign they were sent out by fraudsters.

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.