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WhatsApp Offering 1000GB Free Data on its Birthday a Scam

In reality, users ended up on sites that signed them up for premium and costly SMS services or installed third-party apps on their smartphones

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FILE - The WhatsApp app logo is seen on a smartphone in this picture illustration. VOA

Have you received a WhatsApp message offering 1000GB free Internet data? Beware, as it is a scam that is spreading fast.

Researchers from cybersecurity firm ESET have received a message on WhatsApp stating that the app was giving away 1000 GB of internet data to celebrate its 10th anniversary this year.

The fraudulent campaign is hosted by a domain that is home to yet more bogus offers pretending to come from other well-known brands.

“What strikes us right off the bat here is that the URL that comes with the message is not an official WhatsApp domain,” the researchers said in a blog post late Monday.

Even though businesses may sometimes run promotions through third parties, the rule of thumb here is to check on the company’s website to make sure any promotion is real and valid.

If you were to click on the link, you would be taken to a page that invites you to answer a series of questions in the form of a survey — ranging from how you found the offer to your opinion on the app.

“While you would be responding to the questionnaire, the site would invite you to pass along the offer to at least 30 more people in order to qualify for the big reward’. Needless to say, this is merely a way to boost the campaign’s reach,” said the researchers.

Conference, Privacy, Social Media
FILE – Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to logos of social media apps Signal, Whatsapp and Telegram projected on a screen in this picture illustration. VOA

What are the fraudsters running this WhatsApp-themed scam looking to gain from it?

“Apparently their goal here is click fraud – a highly prevalent monetization scheme that relies on racking up bogus ad clicks that ultimately bring revenues for the operators of any given campaign,” warned ESET.

The same domain that hosts this scam is also home to many other offers, each pretending to come from a different company, including Adidas, Nestle and Rolex, to name but a few.

Also Read: Websites Using Facebook’s ‘Like’ Button Liable for Data: EU Court

In 2017, a similar WhatsApp-themed scam made the rounds that promised to unlock free Internet access.

In reality, users ended up on sites that signed them up for premium and costly SMS services or installed third-party apps on their smartphones.

“In 2018, perhaps the same fraudsters used ‘free Adidas shoes’ as the bait. Regardless of the tune, the end goal was invariably the same — give the scammers an easy way to line their pockets,” said the researchers. (IANS)

Next Story

After Launch of Facebook Pay in US, Will WhatsApp Pay Arrive in India?

Facebook is inching closer to launch WhatsApp Pay in India and will soon have positive news to share, the social networking platform's CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on October 30

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Facebook
Currently, Facebook Pay can be used for fundraisers, in-game purchases, event tickets, person-to-person payments on Messenger and purchases from select Pages and businesses on Facebook Marketplace. Pixabay

Before WhatsApp Pay finally arrives in India, Facebook has launched its own payment system beginning with users in the US that will work across its app ecosystem — Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.

Currently, Facebook Pay can be used for fundraisers, in-game purchases, event tickets, person-to-person payments on Messenger and purchases from select Pages and businesses on Facebook Marketplace. Facebook Pay supports most major credit and debit cards as well as PayPal.

This facility, however, is different from WhatsApp Pay which has exclusively being planned in India and is expected to be announced soon once the country’s regulatory demands are met.

The peer-to-peer, UPI-based WhatsApp Pay service will reach over 400 million users — especially the small and medium businesses (SMBs) — to boost digital inclusion in the country.

Facebook is inching closer to launch WhatsApp Pay in India and will soon have positive news to share, the social networking platform’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on October 30.

“We have our test going in India. The test really shows that a lot of people are going to want to use this product. We’re very optimistic that we’re going to be able to launch to everyone in India soon, but of course will share more news when we have that,” Zuckerberg told analysts over the earnings call.

“We differentiate between payment systems that are built on top of the existing financial infrastructure like what we’re trying to do with WhatsApp payments or when we make payments in Instagram Shopping, and our work with something like Libra that is trying to build some new technological infrastructure for financial services,” Zuckerberg elaborated.

However, the government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) have expressed concerns over some of WhatsApp’s features in complying with the regulations.

Facebook
Before WhatsApp Pay finally arrives in India, Facebook has launched its own payment system beginning with users in the US that will work across its app ecosystem — Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. Pixabay

Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said if WhatsApp meets the regulatory norms from RBI and National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), then it should be allowed to start digital payment operations in the country.

According to a report by Omidyar Network and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), nearly half of MSME owners with annual business revenue between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 75 crore would use WhatsApp Pay once it is fully rolled out.

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WhatsApp had earlier said it had built a local system to store payments-related data within the country but the RBI, in a later affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court, said that WhatsApp Pay is yet to comply with its data localisation norms. (IANS)