A new scam is doing the rounds on free messaging site WhatsApp – don’t fall for it.
As the January discounts begin to dwindle, new promotional deals are sparking my attention.
So when a colleague showed me a message she’d received from a friend on WhatsApp offering her the chance to win a £250 Sainsbury’s gift card, I was naturally interested.
For starters, it sounded like an awesome deal; secondly, it was sent from her friend in a group chat on WhatsApp; and finally, the URL in the message looked legitimate – at least on first glance.
A rise in sophisticated scams
But, as we discovered, clicking on the URL actually benefits no one – unless you’re the scammer who devised the message.
While it appears to send you to the official Sainsbury’s website, it’s actually a fake website.
Once you’ve clicked on the link, you’re then asked to fill in a survey and send the link, complete with its message, on to 10 friends in exchange for the voucher.
— AliciaP (@Ali_Purr) January 15, 2017
This is designed to trick you into distributing the scam to your friends on WhatsApp.
It’s pretty clever and it’s exactly the type of super scam that contributed to the cost of fraud to the UK rising to more than £1 billion last year.
While we think more needs to be done to safeguard us all from scams and cyber-crime, there are steps you can take to avoid falling victim.
What to look out for
So how can you recognise a scam message when you see one and stop the scammers in their tracks?
Well, when it comes to this particular scam, there are several tell-tale signs.
Initially, the URL looks authentic over two lines in the body of the message. But, of course it isn’t.
The majority of companies trademark their name and their website domain name will usually match it.
With fraudulent websites, they will often use the recognisable company name as part of the web address, but it will be accompanied by words such as ‘deals’ or ‘promos’.
Also, if it was a genuine site, there wouldn’t be a “-”, it would be a “/” in the URL, and it certainly wouldn’t contain both .co.uk and .com.
If ever in doubt, it’s always worth opening a new tab on your browser and checking the URL structure of the actual site before clicking on any links.
You should also think about who purportedly sent you the WhatsApp message – would they really send it with two love hearts?
What to do if you clicked on the site
If you click through and are on the site, take some time to double-check the homepage and the ‘about us’ sections.
Be sure to watch out for poor spelling and grammar mistakes, or phrases that don’t sound quite right..
If you receive a scam message similar to this, make sure you report it to the brand or retailer it appears to be from, too.
Sainsbury’s are advising recipients of the message to delete it, and not to click on the link or provide any details.
If you’ve already shared your information, it advises you contact your card provider or bank for advice.
Did you get the same WhatsApp message? What did you do about it? Have you noticed an increase in the number of cyber crimes lately?