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WhatsApp scam: attackers pretend to be a family member in distress to ask for money

Cybersecurity researchers warn of a scam circulating in WhatsApp where cybercriminals contact different people, posing as relatives in distress. In particular, it has been seen that scammers pose as the children or nephews of the victims to request urgent money.


This modus operandi is reminiscent of virtual kidnappings in which, the criminal makes a call in the middle of the night to a person and tells him that he has kidnapped a relative. He then puts the alleged family member (who is another criminal) on the cell phone, screaming and crying to make him believe that it is a real kidnapping. Given the confusion generated, the person falls into the trap and ends up delivering the loot where indicated.

In this case there is no call but a message through the messaging service and instead of using the kidnapping mobile, a problematic situation is invented that the supposed son of the victim must resolve urgently and requires an outlay of money. as seen, The common point in this type of deception is the urgency and appeal to the affective side of the victim with the claim or need of a supposed family member.


The scammer, posing as the distressed son, tells the victim that they cannot reach their regular phone because they are having issues with their device and cannot receive calls. Faced with this situation, the scammed people agree to make the transfers as requested.

In the context of rush, deceived people do not get to verify if what they are told is true and act immediately. Urgency and fear suspend alertness and criminals get away with it.


This is not the first time such situations have arisen. But they have seen a significant increase in this type of scam. Recently in Spain they have detected this type of fraud in different parts of the country and estimated that cybercriminals have managed to defraud between 2,000 and 26,000 euros.

For this reason, the National Police recommends not to lose your temper if you receive a message of this type to make sure you are really talking to a family member before making a transfer.

Just over a month ago, there was also an alert about the increase in these scams in Latin America. It is used the identity fraud with different excuses but the goal is always the same: to convince the victim to make a deposit of money or logging onto a fake site to steal your login credentials and thereby illicitly obtain funds.


The common points that are seen in these types of fraud

1. A message is received from an unknown number that the attacker uses to impersonate someone nearby.

2. Although the number is different, the profile is a copy of the legitimate one, including photo and name, in addition, they use a family nickname to gain trust quickly. In this case, it is made to believe that the number was changed or in other cases the excuse is used of having a broken mobile, or with difficulties of some kind, as mentioned above.

3. You are asked for money to solve an emergency, pay a debt or the sale of foreign currency is offered. The excuses may vary, the idea is to resort to urgency or to a hook that may be attractive, such as the possibility of acquiring foreign currency

How to avoid these scams

The first step is to try to contact the contact in question to verify if he is obviously in trouble, has some difficulty or changed his number.

It is better to wait a while before acting because it may be a trap. Then, as a general measure, personal data should not be given to anyone over the phone and content sent via links should not be downloaded if there is any suspicion.

File a complaint with the Prosecutor’s Office or corresponding authority in each country to avoid or at least limit the circulation of this type of deception.


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