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New WhatsApp scam hits SA

Scammers are targeting South African WhatsApp users with an SMS claiming to update their WhatsApp. LIRON SEGEV explains how the scam works and how to avoid becoming a victim.

There is a rule in the scammer’s handbook that reads something along these lines (paraphrasing): “You stand a better chance of scamming if you go after what is most popular.” And not many apps are more popular than WhatsApp, which makes it a perfect vector to scam people.

So the latest scam that is happening in South Africa is with the following SMS:

Most will disregard it (right thing to do!), however some will click on the link which takes you to this web page:

The unsuspecting ones will click on Continue without reading the fine print that is purposefully written in a greyish-white font on a black background which makes it hard to read on a mobile phone.

This fine print says that you are actually signing up to Social Network and PAYING R7 per DAY!

If you are one of those people who doesn’t check their monthly bills, it could be months before you notice the additional R210 charges (R7 x 30 days). Even when you do, you will have a hard time getting your money back as technically you signed up for this service when you clicked on Continue. The service isn’t illegal either as they met the legal requirement of displaying exactly what the charges are.

If they send millions of these messages and only a fraction clicks and unwittingly signs up, they make pretty good money…

How to Update WhatsApp?

WhatsApp, and in fact any other app, should only be updated from the official App store. Developers of apps hate managing different versions of their app and the official application store makes it simple to have one point which notifies all their users of the new version. Developers may offer access to early “beta” version of their software direct from their site but that is applicable to a niche audience and legitimate app developers would never invoke a system such as an SMS to ask their users to update their apps.

Golden rule: Never update apps from links. Always use the official store.

* Liron Segev is also known as The Techie Guy. You can read his blog at or follow him on Twitter on @Liron_Segev

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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