HOUSTON – We told you about hackers taking over cell phones and apps to drain bank accounts. Or, how they can even copy caller ID to make it look like someone you know is calling asking for money. Now, a disclaimer regarding the popular messaging platform WhatsApp. Plus, we’ll tell you what all device users need to know before downloading an app.
A stranger enters the messaging app and asks his contacts for money
WhatsApp is free and is used by two billion people. It’s a common way for people to message each other, especially those with families in other countries, like Mexico. That’s why a Houston woman said her lifeline was missing after what happened to her account.
“They still call me and call me and love me, so fast,” Karla Ruiz explained.
After a series of random calls, Karla Ruiz’s WhatsApp stopped working. Then strangers took over his account and started contacting his contacts.
“They ask for money in different ways. They don’t have the same pattern for asking,” she said.
Here is one way it happens. The attacker sends repeated one-time codes to your phone asking to reset the account. It was all these calls Ruiz was getting.
“They had stolen my information. I went to my voicemail and saw all the codes there,” says Ruiz.
Then the scammers contact WhatsApp saying that they have lost the phone and they need to deactivate that number and add a new one. They add their own number – now having access to your account and all your contacts. Ruiz isn’t exactly sure what happened to her, but somehow thieves got into her account.
“If you feel like it’s the thing you feel is horrible because the truth even knows how they steal your information,” Ruiz said.
Luckily, none of Ruiz’s friends fell for the asking money trap. After waiting seven days, she regained her account and is using two-step authentication to log in.
WhatsApp always works to protect user information
WhatsApp – owned by Facebook – said it has a two-step verification process that helps prevent this from happening. Just like other apps, developers are constantly working to add security features. WhatsApp recently added high-tech encryption.
They sent us a statement that reads in part: “The most important thing to know about WhatsApp is that we are end-to-end encrypted by default, which means no one except the sender and recipient of a message, cannot read it – including WhatsApp.” (We’ve posted the full statement below.)
Protecting your personal information when using apps
The Federal Trade Commission explains a few things to look for to help protect your personal information when using an app.
When you install an app, know the privacy settings and what you share. It could be contacts, photos, or even your microphone or camera. Most apps will allow you to change these settings.
If the app has access to your location, consider limiting access to only when the app is in use.
Don’t sign in to apps using a social media account – so that data is not shared between platforms.
Keep apps updated. Outdated software is at risk of being pirated. You can access the App Store on your device and you will see which apps have new updates that you need to install.
To avoid unnecessary data collection, remove apps you no longer use.
A WhatsApp spokesperson wanted to make sure we shared more information about stolen accounts. Here is more of the information they sent:
“We advise all users to never share their WhatsApp SMS verification code with others, not even friends or family. We also recommend all users to set up 2-step verification for added security.
Stay safe on WhatsApp: The safety and security of you and your messages is important to us. We want you to know about the tools and features we’ve designed to help you stay safe while using WhatsApp. We also provide links to other resources that can help you stay safe online.
Prank messages: You may have received spam from an unauthorized third party and not from WhatsApp. We are constantly striving to reduce the spam that passes through our system. Creating a secure space for users to communicate with each other is a priority. However, just like regular text messages or phone calls, it is possible that other WhatsApp users who have your phone number will contact you. Thus, we want to help you identify and manage these messages.
How to block and report contacts: You can stop receiving messages, calls, and status updates from certain contacts by blocking them. You can also report them if you think they are sending problematic content or spam. If you receive a message on WhatsApp from someone who is not in your contacts, the first question we ask you is whether you want to block or report it.
For more information and resources on how to stay safe while using Whatsapp, visit the website.
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