BlogScams5TH JUL 2023
AuthorSamir Yawar
9 min read

WhatsApp Scams: How to Avoid This Common Scam in 2023

a feature image about whatsapp scams
BlogScams5TH JUL 2023
9 min read

WhatsApp Scams: How to Avoid This Common Scam in 2023

AuthorSamir Yawar
a feature image about whatsapp scams

James, an IT technician at a brand agency, receives a WhatsApp message from an unknown number. The text says he’s won a brand-new PlayStation. His excitement quickly turns into suspicion since the message sounds too good to be true. Congratulations James! He knew right away this was one of those WhatsApp scams he’s heard about.

James is one of the lucky few who didn’t fall for the scam. He is just one of two billion users who use WhatsApp. Given its popularity, WhatsApp has become a hot target for scammers, employing sophisticated social engineering techniques to trap unsuspecting souls into surrendering personal information.

What are WhatsApp Scams?

Anything that tricks people into giving away their personal or financial details is a scam. This can happen to anyone, anywhere. Apps like WhatsApp depend on text messaging and social engineers leverage this to achieve their goals.

WhatsApp fraud usually happens when:

  • You are persuaded to hand over personal information to someone else, like your address or bank account details.

  • Malware is installed on your phone. This piece of code spies on your phone activity and collects information.

  • You are charged for free services.

  • You become the target of an impersonation scam by someone pretending to be a family member or friend in need of money.

  • You are called by a company or organization to provide more information to verify your identity.

Based on these scenarios, the common goal for WhatsApp scammers is identity theft and money.

Common Types of WhatsApp Scams

Mom and Dad Scam

One of the most common scams is the “mom and dad scam.” Scammers impersonate your family members over WhatsApp, saying they are facing a difficult situation and need you to bail them out immediately.

The “Hi mom” scam starts with you receiving a message from an unknown number. The message claims that it is someone you know and that they just replaced their lost phone. This person pretends to be your mom or dad and sometimes even a sibling. Hence the name of the scam.

After ‘justifying’ the use of another number, they ask you to send them some money immediately because they don’t have access to their banking app and need to pay a bill ASAP. If a victim does fall for the story and sends over the funds, the scammer instantly cuts off all contact. By the time the victim realizes that they have been conned, the con artist has already transferred the money through various accounts.

How successful are these scams?

On average, about $635,000 have been lost to mom and dad scams in the first half of 2023.

Supermarket scam

As the world grapples with the rising cost-of-living crisis, the supermarket WhatsApp scam is making a comeback. It is one of the most effective ways to ensnare unsuspecting consumers. After all, who doesn’t love free vouchers from major retailers?

The supermarket scam usually involves sending the victim a URL, allegedly to a free coupon over WhatsApp. This could be a phishing link or an attempt to install malware on the victim’s device.

If you receive a link promising free coupons from your local supermarket chain like Costco, Walmart or Target, delete it as soon as you see it.

Free Flight Scam

Another scam involves you receiving free airline tickets to your dream holiday destination.

The free flight scam includes these elements:

  • You get a message from someone. In this case, it is someone claiming to be from the Emirates.

  • The sender's display picture features the Emirates Airlines logo.

  • The message says “Emirates Airlines 2022 Anniversary giveaway”

  • There is a link to claim the tickets.

  • If you inspect the URL closely, you can find a phishing link hidden in plain sight.

Note: This type of scam can involve any airline at any time. Scammers usually pick the most popular one to trap people with their phishing attempts.

WhatsApp Gold Offer

WhatsApp is a free service. Despite this, you may have gotten a forwarded message from someone about the “WhatsApp Gold” service. This text explicitly states that it is a special version of WhatsApp with hidden features that’s used by many celebrities. It even features a link to download the ‘new’ version.

In truth, the link is riddled with malware. You can safely ignore or delete this message.

WhatsApp Verification Message aka Impersonation Scam

Suppose a criminal gains access to a WhatsApp account owned by one of your contacts. Using that contact's account, they strike up a friendly conversation with you, with you none the wiser. While talking, you unexpectedly receive a text listing a six-digit WhatsApp code. What’s going on here?

The person on the other end is trying to get access to your WhatsApp account. Using your mobile number, their goal is to hijack your account with the unique code WhatsApp sends. This code is basically used to set up a new account or log a WhatsApp account into a new device.

The criminal then casually asks you for the code you just received; they say it was sent to you by mistake and ask you to forward it to them, hoping you are naive enough to send it without raising any questions.

If the scam artist gets access to that code, you will be locked out of your own WhatsApp account. They will then use this same method to steal the accounts of people on your contact list.

Action Fraud UK received over 60 complaints regarding a WhatsApp scam that steals accounts from their original owner.

Apart from these scams, here are some not-so-honorable mentions:

  • Charity scams

  • Fake surveys, packages and lotteries

  • Catfishing

Here’s the list of the most common WhatsApp scams you are likely to encounter:

A list of Whatsapp Scams you are likely to encounter

How to protect yourself from an impersonation scam on WhatsApp?

There is one rule you should follow: always assume that a stranger messaging you is a potential scammer. If you don’t reply, you can successfully avoid being scammed.

Here are other signs you should look out for:

  • Is the message from an unknown number?

  • Are they telling you to hurry up?

  • Are they trying too hard, asking you to trust them?

  • Are they asking for money, passwords, codes, or other personally identifiable information?

If the WhatsApp message involves these signs, assume it is a scam. Here are the next steps you should take:

The Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign is an excellent example of why you should always stop and think before responding to scam WhatsApp messages.

What to do if you fall victim to online fraud over WhatsApp?

Here are some organizations you can reach out to:


The world of WhatsApp scams presents a pervasive and ever-evolving threat to our security. These scams exploit our trust, manipulate our emotions, and seek to deceive us for their own gain. By staying informed, adopting preventive measures, and exercising caution, we can fortify ourselves against these fraudulent schemes.

Check out our coverage of different kinds of scams:

Resources to combat free flight scams on WhatsApp:

A list of things to do to avoid falling victim to a free flight scam on WhatsApp

Samir Yawar
Samir Yawar / Content Lead
Samir wants a world where people can instinctively whack online scams and feel accomplished without the need for psychic powers. As an ISC2 member, he is doing his bit to turn cybersecurity awareness training into a fun concept with simple, approachable and accessible content. Reach out to him at X @yawarsamir
FAQsFrequently Asked Questions
WhatsApp scams refer to fraudulent activities targeting users of the popular messaging app, aiming to deceive or exploit them for personal gain.
If you suspect a scam, do not engage further. Block and report the suspicious contact to WhatsApp. Also, inform your friends and family to prevent them from falling victim.
Look out for suspicious messages from unknown contacts, requests for personal information, or links to unfamiliar websites. Exercise caution and trust your instincts.
Enable two-step verification, be cautious of suspicious messages and links, keep your WhatsApp app updated, and stay informed about the latest scams to stay one step ahead. Do not give out your WhatsApp verification code to anyone.
Act swiftly! Disconnect from the scammer, change your passwords, and report the incident to WhatsApp. If necessary, contact your bank or credit card company to secure your financial accounts. Reach out to agencies like OLAF (EU), Anti-Fraud Centre (Canada), Action Fraud (UK) and the Scam & Fraud portal (USA).