Answering a WhatsApp call from an unknown international number… That’s all it took for a 30-year-old man from Mumbai to lose 0.3 million rupees.
That’s how easy it is for scamsters to extort money in the latest WhatsApp scams, targeting unsuspecting WhatsApp users in India.
In the past weeks, many users of the messaging platform have fallen victim to the WhatsApp sextortion scam, which seems to have been spreading throughout the India.
The perpetrators behind the WhatsApp sextortion scams are the masters of deception, deploying a simple yet effective tactic—a captivating profile picture of an alluring woman. The visual lures innocent victims into the web of deception, scams, and misery.
WhatsApp scams: What happens when you get a WhatsApp call from unknown international numbers?
In one such incident, an unsuspecting victim Ravi (name changed to protect their identity), found himself entangled in a digital nightmare soon after he received a video call on WhatsApp from an unknown international number.
Intrigued by the caller’s profile picture of a seemingly attractive woman, the 23-year-old answered the call. Little did Ravi know that this one phone call would leave him regretting every unknown call he had ever answered.
Instead of a friendly conversation, Ravi was greeted by a digital background and a morphed voice instructing him to check his WhatsApp messages.
On checking those, Ravi was left aghast to find a series of obscene images and videos in his chat, all doctored to appear as though he was the subject.
And then, the nightmare began!
The anonymous caller demanded a ransom in exchange for not spreading this damaging material online or to his contact list. Overwhelmed by fear and anxiety, Ravi complied with the demand, becoming a victim of a malicious WhatsApp sextortion scam.
Unfortunately, Ravi is not the only one who fell victim to the scam.
Amit (name changed), a young professional, also faced a similar situation on WhatsApp.
Unlike Ravi, Amit assumed the WhatsApp international call to be from one of his clients from the US. On answering the call, Amit waited a while thinking there might be some connectivity issues.
Soon after, Amit received a video on his WhatsApp chat. On opening those, he felt the blood drain from his face as the video was a morphed version featuring him in explicit scenarios.
The unknown caller demanded a ransom, threatening to leak the video online if the payment wasn’t made.
To prevent the video from going public, Amit sent the requested amount. He then rushed to the nearest police station to report the incident. The police, having dealt with such cases before, redirected him to the main office of the cyber cell.
At the cyber cell, Amit learned that there were many like him who too were a victim of the WhatsApp scams.
While Amit assumed that the worst was over, it clearly was not. The very next day, Amit was terror-struck when he received a friend request on Facebook from an account matching the Truecaller ID of the attacker, highlighting the extent of the cyber threat he was facing.
Amit’s experience underlines the pervasive nature of these sextortion scams and the importance of implementing the recommended WhatsApp security settings.
A growing number of users across India have reported receiving calls from unknown international numbers, often accompanied by a profile picture of an attractive woman. Upon answering these calls, users find themselves ensnared in a similar sextortion scam.
If you suspect you are a victim of such a scam, it is crucial to report the incident to local authorities and the cyber cell promptly.
Unravelling the WhatsApp scams and possible fixes
The enigma of these WhatsApp scams solely lies in the victim’s fear as they pursue them with fake information and use the built-up anxiety to extort money from them.
The dark corners of the internet are still hidden from regular users as they propagate on the dark web. However, the WhatsApp scams has made its way into the Indian WhatsApp market, with multiple users reporting about the same.
The WhatsApp sextortion scams take a new turn when the attacker initiates contact with the victim and engages in friendly conversation to establish trust.
Gradually, the scammer lures the victim into sharing intimate photos or engaging in explicit conversations.
Once the scammer obtains compromising material, they turn the tables on the victim. They threaten to expose the explicit content to the victim’s family, friends, or colleagues unless a ransom is paid.
This creates immense emotional distress and fear among the victims, leading some to comply with the scammer’s demands.
To better understand how these WhatsApp scams work, it is important to check out how these scammers gain information about a specific individual.
In the initial phase of the scam, the perpetrator behind the computer uses the hidden realms of the internet known as the dark web or deep web.
Within the dark web lies illegal criminals and businesses that stomp the foundation of human rights.
The dark web is the home of all illegal online activities, including but not limited to the trade of personal data, selling and buying company access, artillery, unsetting livestreams, and even the sale of drugs.
In the cybersecurity world, whenever data breaches occur, a multitude of individuals find their personal information, such as emails, phone numbers, and credit card details, up for sale in these obscure corners.
Opportunistic hackers purchase this data trove, employing it as a foundation for fraudulent activities like WhatsApp scams.
The information being sold, often in large quantities, encompasses not only login credentials but also sensitive financial data.
Armed with these details, hackers can identify potential targets, initiate contact, and orchestrate their deceptive schemes. This modus operandi elucidates why seemingly random individuals fall victim to these scams.
Nevertheless, various measures exist to assess whether your personal information has been compromised.
Websites like amibreached.com offer a means to input your email, phone number, or credit card details for verification against the dark web’s repositories. This process may look tedious, but it is a crucial step in fortifying your digital well-being.
How to block international calls on WhatsApp and protect yourself from WhatsApp scams?
Protecting yourself against these WhatsApp sextortion scams requires more than luck. Because at the end of the day, we’re humans, and we always make errors. However, some quick mitigation techniques can be used to avoid getting into WhatsApp scams.
A smarter approach to avoid this scam is to use some quick settings on your smartphone.
To begin with this security feature, one must access the WhatsApp security settings. If you’re unsure how to access it, fret not because we have devised an easy-to-follow guide below to help you counter these WhatsApp scams.
- Firstly, open WhatsApp on your device and click on the three dots. (available on the top-right corner of the screen)
- Select ‘Settings’ from the available options.
- Tap on ‘Account’ and then click on ‘Security Notifications.’
- Now, enable the ‘Show Security Notifications.’ (This option will notify you if a contact’s security code changes)
- On the next step, click ‘Settings’ and select ‘Privacy.’
- Under ‘Calls,’ select the ‘Silent Unknown Callers.’ (This will prevent unknown users from calling you)
- Now, go back to Groups, and select ‘My Contacts Only.
- That’s all you have to do is protect yourself from WhatsApp sextortion scams.
By following these steps, one can increase their WhatsApp security and effectively evade the perils of WhatsApp sextortion scams.
Also, remember that online threats come in all shapes and sizes. By continuously learning and adapting to new technologies, one can avoid shenanigans like these WhatsApp scams.
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