UAE authorities caution against suspicious messages and links on WhatsApp and social media.

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Fardeen Imran, TLR

Published on October 6, 2023, 10:39:44


UAE authorities caution against suspicious messages and links on WhatsApp and social media.


What steps can be taken to identify and stop these online hazards?

A warning was released by UAE authorities warning residents against clicking on any unfamiliar or suspicious links that find their way into platforms such as WhatsApp, text messages, and social media channels. This advisory is part of UAE’s efforts to raise awareness against all such scams, which put the public’s privacy and data at risk. These dangers can take many forms and routes which is why awareness of cybersecurity, online safety, and precaution is a state-level priority to prevent and shield the public from such threats. 

The Cyber Security Council is responsible for extinguishing and raising awareness of these dangers in the UAE. The council went out with their public warning on the social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter), which recommended users to be digitally cautious, avoid clicking on links from unfamiliar sources, and confirm the legitimacy of messages with the senders before taking any action. 

The issue was highlighted as a part of the global Cybersecurity Awareness Month, which is dedicated to spreading awareness amongst the public regarding the importance of cybersecurity and protecting your data, content, and online identity. 

On top of the list of priorities against cybercrime is raising awareness amongst the common man of this hazard, both in terms of recognizing these scams and preventing them. These aim to foster a cybersecurity-conscious culture within the UAE community with awareness measures such as The Cyber Pulse initiative, which aims at public inclusion toward Cybersecurity, allowing public awareness against suspicious online activities and the necessary steps to be taken from falling victim to these crimes. 

There is no need to possess the technical knowledge to prevent such crimes, and the most basic understanding can help against these prevailing scams. A simple scan for the authenticity of messages and links can help, and blocking these would be a sound strategy for most. 

With that said, Here are some types of cyber threats that are prevalent and popularly circulate amongst members responsible for such crimes, 

  1. Voicemail Hacking

Hackers gain WhatsApp access by exploiting voicemail, using a victim's stolen account info and a weak voicemail PIN. 

  1. WhatsApp Hijacking

 Cybercriminals pose as friends, get the victim's phone number, and trick them into sharing a verification code. 

  1. Impersonation

Scammers pretend to be familiar contacts, urgently requesting money, using social media info for credibility 

  1. Malicious Links

Fraudsters distribute harmful links, tricking users into revealing personal details through surveys.

  1. WhatsApp Support Impersonation

Scammers impersonate WhatsApp support, asking for personal info and potentially locking users out of their accounts. 

  1. Compromised Apps

Malware hidden in unofficial apps spreads through links, affecting WhatsApp users. 

How to Identify a WhatsApp Scam?

Here are some ways to distinguish a suspicious message from an authentic one to prevent falling prey to these crimes.

  •  Scam messages originate from unknown numbers unless scammers hijack an account. They usually pose as contacts, claiming to have changed their numbers. 
  • Scam messages often contain poor English with numerous spelling and grammar errors or vague sentences. They also tend to create urgency, pressuring you to act quickly, for sensitive information or payments.
  • What feels like a friendly conversation at first, can quickly pivot towards discussions about money. 
  • Scammers may request money transfers through methods like PayPal to avoid disclosing bank details. 
  • Scammers often avoid answering calls when contacted. 

How to prevent being scammed?

To protect yourself from scams and secure your data and device, follow these key steps: 

  • Verify links in messages from services like PayPal to avoid potential phishing. 
  • Be cautious with money requests from unknown numbers; verify with the sender via a different method.
  •  Add a voicemail PIN and activate WhatsApp's 2-step verification for added security.
  •  Pay attention to message language and urgency, and consider the consequences of taking immediate action. -
  •  Respond to suspicious messages with unique queries to confirm their legitimacy. - Think twice before sharing a WhatsApp verification code.
  •  Install antivirus software for real-time protection against potential threats. 

Taking these precautions can help you reduce the risk of falling victim to scams and keep your personal information safe. 

If you detect suspicious activity, here's how to report it: 

For Android: Open WhatsApp, tap More Options, go to Settings, click Help, and submit a scam report through the Contact Us tab. 

For iOS: Open WhatsApp, tap Settings, access the Help tab, and click Contact Us. 

To report a suspicious phone number, follow these steps: 

Open the chat with the suspicious contact, check their account details in the chat details section, and select Report at the bottom of the page.

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