Watch out for this WhatsApp scam

Watch out for this WhatsApp scam
Published: 17 January 2015 (2013 Views)
Responding to an SMS that advertises WhatsApp add-ons or updates could cost you hundreds of rands or dollars per month.

This is according to IT consultant and prominent technology blogger Liron Segev who has highlighted what he calls just the latest WhatsApp scam.

It starts with mobile phone users receiving an SMS from a Wireless Application Service Provider (Wasp) saying "you have not updated to the latest WhatsApp Add-ons". The SMS then prompts the user to ‘click' - or rather press - on a link.

Segev says "unsuspecting" victims will activate the link, which opens up the phone's web browser and leads to a page with a big green button that says ‘continue'.

However, the risk is that users may skip over the fine print at the bottom of the web page, which details how the service will deduct R7 per day off their phone bill.

If left unnoticed, this could add over R200 to your phone bill per month. This could help these ‘Wasps' earn large amounts of money, even if they only reach small numbers of people. In South Africa, WhatsApp has 10 million users alone, according to research from World Wide Worx and Fuseware.

"The issue is you get scams like this which are playing on the masses, sending out millions of these SMSs, hoping that a certain percentage will actually not bother to read," Segev told Fin24.

"They'll catch you when you're not focusing. You'll put a couple of clicks in; nothing will happen. You'll think nothing of it, but then little amounts of money come off your account without you realising it," Segev said.

Segev further told Fin24 that this type of SMS sign-up scam is just one of many as other companies send out text messages prompting users to deactivate or even upgrade WhatsApp.

WhatsApp can only be updated via the Google Play apps market for Android or the Apple App Store.

Have you been a victim of a WhatsApp scam? Let us know by clicking here to tell us.

This WhatsApp premium service charges R7 per day.


Legal

Ironically, SMS scams such as those highlighted by Segev can be deemed legal, because they inform users of future deductions off their phone bills.

"The crux of the problem is that the companies doing it are actually legally allowed to do this. And they're abiding by the South African spam laws. They say exactly what they're going to do," Segev told Fin24.

"If you read a site, they are honest and they say exactly what they're going to do. You're signing up for a new social network that's premium; that'll you be paying R7 a day for. They say that in black and white: they're not hiding it.

"They're counting on the fact that we don't read things properly. They're counting on the fact that we're busy and all we're going to do is click the continue button but technically they have abided by the rules and regulations, which state that you've got to disclose what your fee is upfront. And they do that; they say R7 a day," Segev told Fin24.

Section 45 of South Africa's Electronic Communications and Transactions Act says that "no agreement is concluded where a consumer has failed to respond to an unsolicited communication".

In a WhatsApp premium service SMS case, simply clicking on the continue button could be classified as a confirmation response.

- fin24

Tags: WhatsApp, Scam,
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