‘Hacker ruined me’

2020-01-27 09:41

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A self-employed woman was left frustrated after her WhatsApp was hacked on Thursday afternoon and used to solicit money from her contacts and clients.

Zonke Hlongwane, from Westville, runs an online support school group and sells Herbalife.

She said on Thursday at around 3 pm she was busy on her phone taking orders from clients and arranging payments, when she received an SMS notification with a WhatsApp code that one gets when they are registering onto the app.

She ignored the message and continued with her business. A short while later, Hlongwane received a WhatsApp message from an unsaved number asking her to forward the SMS notification with the WhatsApp code.

“I asked who the person was and they said I must look at their profile picture, which was a woman I recognised from our Herbalife seminars. The message said that I must please forward the code because she had sent it to me by mistake.

“At first I refused, but then I went and searched the number on my WhatsApp and realised that the number was indeed in our Herbalife WhatsApp group and my other groups, so I figured that the person was genuine and just sent the code.

“The minute I sent the code, my WhatsApp got blocked. I received a message saying my WhatsApp was existing on another device.”

On realising that her account had just been hacked, Hlongwana called her husband and asked him to tell everyone that she has been hacked.

“The minute my husband sent the message to his family group, my aunt-in-law had just eWallet’ed R3 500 to the person who she thought was me. Luckily she was able to reverse it before the money was withdrawn.”

She said the person who hacked her WhatsApp account was sending messages to her contacts, saying she had been arrested and needed money urgently.

“He said I can’t take calls because I was in a holding cell and even included a police constable’s contact number who was handling my case.

“I have helped many people, so some of my contacts sent the money to the person thinking they were helping me.

“When I told them I had been hacked most of them understood but one person asked me to repay her the money she had sent to the hacker,” said Hlongwane.

She said at some point, she suspected that the hacker might have called her to assess the situation. “I got a call from a private number and the man on the line said he received a message that I was in trouble and needed money.

“I told the person not to send the money because I was hacked, and he asked who I was, then hung up. I only realised later that it might have actually been the hacker.”

She said after that call, the hacker stopped asking people for money and started sending them codes, like the one she had received before the ordeal. “I think he’s now looking for more victims to hack because he’s requesting these WhatsApp codes using other people’s numbers, then pretending to be me and then asking them to send him the codes to retrieve the account.”

She has since reported the matter to the WhatsApp help centre via e-mail but has not received a response. She also tried opening a case with the police but was told she could not do so as nothing was stolen from her and was advised to tell her contacts who had sent the hacker the money to open cases.

She has also managed to regain control of her WhatsApp by reinstalling it onto her phone again.

Hlongwane said the whole ordeal has ruined her reputation and has left her very discouraged and traumatised. “I’m self-employed so now I’m just thinking that after all this effort to build my reputation for so long, here comes this person who was able to come and tarnish everything so easily, it really did scare me but I will not allow it to break me,” she said.

“I prayed about it and am just grateful because I know it could have been worse, but it wasn’t. I will build my reputation up again,.”

Hlongwane warned other WhatsApp users to not resend pins and codes to other contacts and to always call someone to verify if they are really in trouble and need money.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg
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