- Cyber criminals try to steal money through WhatsApp.
- To do this, they pretend parents that their children are in an emergency situation.
- Several such cases have already become known in Germany since spring 2021. A wave is currently rolling again.
Cyber criminals have apparently discovered WhatsApp for themselves. Numerous police stations across Germany are warning of the so-called “grandchildren” trick, which is already known from the telephone.
This is how the scam works
In this case, the criminals pretend to be the victim’s child or grandchild on the phone and pretend that they are in an emergency situation. The aim is to relieve the victim of cash or valuables. Now this has been adapted for WhatsApp.
The victims receive a WhatsApp message from a number they do not know. Behind it is supposedly the son or daughter who has a new cell phone because the old one is defective. The reasons given here are often a fall in the toilet or being rolled over by a car.
After a long chat with the victim, the perpetrators then fake an emergency situation and ask the victim to transfer money to them. Often the pretext used is that the cell phone currently in use does not support online banking, but that an urgent transfer would have to be made – for example because one was involved in an accident.
Numerous cases nationwide
There was already such a wave of fraud in February and March 2021. Corresponding cases have been reported from Kierspe, Anklam, Schifferstadt and Itzehoe, among others, and now a new wave is apparently rolling. Corresponding cases were reported in June by police stations in Cologne, Wesel, Kleve, Ober-Mörlen, Roth, Kaarst and Lindlar, in July also in Linden and Laubach, in August from Zeven and again from Kleve.
Since September there have been new reports from Greifswald, Ludwigshafen, from the island of Rügen, Neuss, Hildesheim, Meschede and Edenkoben. The latter case is particularly worrying because the unknown perpetrators did not contact the victim from an unknown number, but hacked a friend’s WhatsApp account and sent the fraudulent message from him.
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This is how you protect yourselves
The Police Headquarters Middle Franconia and the Essen / Mülheim an der Ruhr police recommend the following precautionary measures if you are contacted by an unknown number:
- Ask the alleged contact personally if you are contacted by a previously unknown number via messenger services such as WhatsApp.
- Don’t just include unknown numbers as contacts.
- Get suspicious if you are asked to pay money via messenger services – even from known numbers. In this case, it is advisable to contact the person outside of WhatsApp and check that the claim is genuine.
- Checks the security and privacy settings of the messenger services you use.
- If transfers have already been initiated, contact your financial institution in order to reverse the payments in the best case!
- Secures the chat history for the police. So you can export WhatsApp chats.
Unfortunately, WhatsApp does not generally allow you to block messages from unknown numbers. You can find out which settings you should change on WhatsApp for more security in our linked guide.
Criminals are also trying other methods of getting your money on WhatsApp. For example, a woman transferred money to a fraudster after he pretended to be a bank clerk and allegedly informed her about a loan. You should also be careful with notifications of winnings via the messenger.
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