SINGAPORE – Scammers have found a new way to trick people with a gold bullion system using compromised WhatsApp accounts, police warned on Wednesday (June 2nd).
They added that the accounts were hacked using a voicemail method.
In this new variant of scam, the crooks pose as a victim’s friend by using a hacked WhatsApp account belonging to the friend and then communicating with the victim through the messaging service.
Impersonating a friend, the crooks trick the victim into buying gold bars that they claim to be sold at 30% below the market rate.
The crooks explain that the gold bars are sold at a low price because they were seized by the Immigration Authority and Singapore checkpoints or customs, and were put up for auction.
A fake invoice purportedly issued by Singapore Customs is provided and the crooks ask the victims to transfer the payment for the gold bars to a list of bank accounts.
Sometimes the victims are invited to meet the crooks to collect the gold bars.
Victims only realize that they have been duped when they do not receive the gold bars, or when they find out that their friend’s WhatsApp account has been hacked.
Police said a scammer can hack a WhatsApp account using a voicemail method.
The scammer tries to log into a victim’s WhatsApp account on their own device and then deliberately fails the verification process by repeatedly entering the wrong six-digit verification codes.
When the verification repeatedly fails, WhatsApp will prompt the victim to perform a voice verification.
It will do this by calling the victim’s phone number to provide the verification code in an audio message.
If the victim ignores the call or their phone is not on, the audio message is directed to the victim’s voicemail account, if they have voicemail enabled.
The scammer will then take this opportunity to remotely access the victim’s voicemail account using the default PIN code used by telecom service providers.
This only works if the victim has enabled voicemail and has not changed the default PIN for the voicemail account.
After accessing the voicemail account, the scammer can get the six-digit verification code of the audio message in the voicemail and use it to take over the victim’s WhatsApp account.
Once in control of the account, the scammer can activate a two-step verification process to prevent the victim from regaining control of their WhatsApp account.
This new scam variant comes amid an increase in scams here.
A total of 15,756 scams were reported in 2020, a 65.1% increase in cases from the 9,545 reported in 2019.
Ecommerce-related scams, which rose 19.1% last year, were the most frequently reported type of scam last year.
Police have advised the public to be wary of unusual requests they receive on WhatsApp, even if they are sent from people on their WhatsApp contact list.
Always call friends who presumably submitted the requests to verify their authenticity, but don’t do so through WhatsApp because their accounts could be under the control of crooks, police said.
And if the prices are too good to be true, they probably are, then buy only from authorized sellers or reputable sources, especially for high value items.
To prevent their WhatsApp accounts from being hacked, police said users can turn on two-step verification under “account” in their WhatsApp settings.
Members of the public should also contact their telecommunications service providers to change the default PIN for their voicemail account or to turn off the voicemail feature.
Those with information on scams can call the police hotline at 1-800-255-0000, or submit it online at this link. They can call 999 if they need urgent police assistance.
For more information on scams, visit this link or call the Anti-Scam Hotline at 1-800-722-6688.