What is 'friend in need' scam being faced by WhatsApp users?

WION Web Team
California, United States Published: Nov 11, 2021, 11:09 PM(IST)

The WhatsApp messaging application is seen on a phone screen Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

In this scam, WhatsApp users are receiving messages from their friends saying they need their help

A new scam called 'friend in need' is taking place on Facebook's messaging app WhatsApp.

In this scam, WhatsApp users are receiving messages from their friends saying they need their help.

According to the UK's National Trading Standards, 59 per cent people living in the country have received such scam messages.

Whatsapp has issued a warning saying, ''If you receive a suspicious message... calling or requesting a voice note is the fastest and simplest way to check someone is who they say they are. A friend in need is a friend worth calling.''

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An online campaign called 'Stop. Think. Call.' has been organised to inform people who could be potential victims about the scam.

''Scammers send messages that appear to come from a friend or family member asking for personal information, money or a six-digit pin number,'' said Louise Baxter, the head of the National Trading Standards.

“The messages are sent from the compromised accounts of your friends, so they look as if they’re coming from someone you know, or from an unknown number claiming to be a friend who has lost their phone or been ‘locked out’ of their account.

“These kinds of scams are particularly cruel as they prey on our kindness and desire to help friends and family.”

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In response, the app's policy manager Kathryn Harnett said ''WhatsApp protects our users’ personal messages with end-to-end encryption, but we want to remind people that we all have a role to play in keeping our accounts safe by remaining vigilant to the threat of scammers.''

''We advise all users never to share their six-digit pin code with others, not even friends or family, and recommend that all users set up two-step verification for added security.''

Facebook for the first time on Tuesday disclosed the prevalence of bullying and harassment on its platform, saying such content was seen between 14 and 15 times per every 10,000 views on the site in the third quarter.

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The company, which recently changed its name to Meta, also said in its quarterly content moderation report that bullying and harassment content was seen between 5 and 6 times per 10,000 views of content on Instagram.

The social media giant, long under scrutiny over its handling of abuses on its services, has been in the spotlight after a former employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked internal documents that include research and discussions about Instagram's effects on the mental health of teens and on whether Facebook's platforms stoke divisions.

Haugen has said the documents show the company picked profits over user safety. Facebook disputed this characteriSation, saying the documents were being used to paint a "false picture."

The documents, which were first reported by the Wall Street Journal, have spurred calls for Facebook to be more transparent and have raised questions over whether metrics such as prevalence give the full picture of how the company handles abuses. 

(With inputs from agencies)

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