The coronavirus crisis is partly to blame for a sharp increase of internet fraud over the last two months, particularly via the popular messaging site WhatsApp, fraud monitoring body Fraudehelpdesk has said.
The total number of reports in April approached 15,000, compared to around 6,000 in December, January and February
WhatsApp users in particular have been conned by fraudsters who hack the account and pose as friends or family members who urgently need money. Fraud involving fake e-mails from the tax office and phantom bills have also increased.
‘Scams on WhatApp in particular are getting more sophisticated so people fall for them,’ Marloes Kolthof told broadcaster NOS. ‘The fraudsters do their homework. They look at social media to see who is friends with whom and use that information. In some cases they also have the right phone number, which makes it even more difficult to identify a request as fraud.’
Kolthof said the current coronavirus crisis is ‘definitely a contributing factor’. ‘It’s not as easy to go and see people and communication is and has been mostly digital,’ she said.
The help desk advises people to use the WhatsApp two-step verification for more security when activating WhatsApp on a new phone, and never share the activation code of any app.
A good way of checking whether you are dealing with a real friend or family member is to give them a call or try to see them if possible, Kolthof said. If send a message asking question that only you and the other person would know the answer to, Kolthof suggested.
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