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Dorset PoliceDorset Police is urging the public to remain vigilant following an increasing number of reports of scams involving WhatsApp messenger.

The unsuspecting WhatsApp user receives a message on WhatsApp purporting to be from a family member in need of urgent help.

The message comes from an unknown number and states something similar to ‘their phone is broken’, ‘dropped down the loo’, ‘microphone doesn’t work’ etc and they cannot access their online banking – they need to urgently transfer money to another bank account to pay a bill, fine or similar.

The victim transfers money to the bank account details, which have been provided by the scammer. Then they receive another message requesting another bill is paid, then another. It is at this point the victim realises that these requests are out of the ordinary and suddenly realise they have been scammed.

If money has been paid, then contact your bank immediately.

This is a ‘push payment fraud’, where the victim has authorised the payment to another party. It is up to the bank whether the payment can be recovered.

Investigations Officer Martin Forder, of Dorset Police, said: ‘We would like to make the public aware of this scam and encourage anyone who has been a victim of a similar incident to please report it to Dorset Police and Action Fraud.

‘If you receive this type of message, please check the authenticity of it – make a call to that family member on a number you know to be theirs, or alternatively go and visit them if this is practical. If you are in any doubt, do not engage with these messages or send any money.

‘We would ask people to look out for family members or neighbours and make sure they are aware of this potential scam.’

Last November saw the ‘STOP. THINK. CALL.’ campaign launched by WhatsApp and the National Trading Standards’ Friends Against Scams campaign (with support from Citizens Advice), fronted by WhatsApp  Scambassador, Joel Dommett. Its aim is to help people understand the simple steps they can take to keep their WhatsApp accounts secure and stay safe from scams.

‘WhatsApp protects our users’ personal messages with end-to-end encryption, but we can all play a role in keeping our accounts safe by remaining vigilant to the threat of scammers,’ says Kathryn Harnett, policy manager at WhatsApp.

‘We advise people never to share their six-digit PIN code with others, not even friends or family, and recommend that all users set up two-step verification for added security. And if you receive a suspicious message (even if you think you know who it’s from), calling or requesting a voice note is the fastest and simplest way to check someone is who they say they are. A friend in need is a friend worth calling.’

Anyone who believes they have been targeted by scammers is asked to report it to Dorset Police at www.dorset.police.uk/contact or by calling 101. Please also report it to Action Fraud at https://www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.

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