WhatsApp spam is on the rise! Here's what you can do to protect yourself against online scams

By admin
21 January 2014

New research shows there’s a worrying increase in spam sent via the social media platform.

This year, ensure you don’t get caught out by scams from WhatApp hackers and fraudsters.

The latest research from AdaptiveMobile shows there’s a worrying increase in spam sent via the social media platform. It’s especially prevalent in Europe and India, but because of  WhatApp’s international reach it can affect users anywhere in the world.

'The total scale of these individual spam attacks over WhatsApp is hard to tell'

Research also shows that users who send WhatsApp messages are moving away from SMSes and using WhatsApp and other similar messaging services instead.

“The total scale of these individual spam attacks over WhatsApp is hard to tell, but it does seem clear that WhatsApp is joining the ranks of messaging systems which now have a functioning and active spam ecosystem,” the report reads.

Although it’s uncertain at this stage to predict to what extent South Africans will be affected by this spam attack, you can only imagine how many fraudsters there are among the 700 million active WhatsApp users and how many of the 30 billion messages sent worldwide every day are scams.

Here are some tips for staying safe on social media apps like WhatsApp and on the web:

1. Create smart and strong passwords, mcafee.com suggests. "Make it difficult for hackers to crack your password. You can create a smart password by incorporating capital letters, numbers, and special characters, and using more than six characters. An example of a strong password is: Go1dM!n3."

2. Only update your apps via your phone's app store. Official updates are always listed in the iTunes App Store (iPhones) and GooglePlay (Android). To be on the safe side, avoid clicking through to links sent via SMSes (like the most recent WhatsApp hoax that promised an update but redirected users to a subscriptions service that they could have unwittinglu signed up for) or social media.

3. Don't overshare Don’t tell anyone your birth date, mother’s maiden name, pet’s name or any other identifying info on social media or via messaging apps.

4. Watch out for phishing scams. Phishing scams use fakes emails and sites, masquerading as legitimate businesses, to get unsuspecting users to give out private account or login info. "To be safe, if you receive an email from a business that includes a link to a web site, make certain that the web site you visit is legitimate," mcafee.com says. Instead of clicking through to the site from within the email, open a separate Web browser and visit the business’ web site directly to perform the necessary actions. You can also verify that an email is in fact from a legitimate business by calling the business or agency directly."

Guard against viruses and malware. "Many people believe that smartphones and tablets are not susceptible to viruses, spyware and other malware. This is certainly not the case," says getsafeonline.org. "In fact the more people that use these devices, and the more apps that are available for them, the greater the level of harmful and criminal activity." Their top tips for protecting your device? Be vigilant against fake app stores when downloading apps. Make sure you're connect to your operating systems official app store before hitting that download button. To be extra safe, before plugging your device in to a pc or laptop, make sure your computer has the latest antivirus/antispyware and firewall installed and running properly.

Sources: Michael Essany, infosecurity-magazine.com, mobilemarketingwatch.com, rd.com, mcafee.com

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