A new type of scam uses cloning cell phone chips and WhatsApp messages to extort users. The crime consists of stealing the victims' phone number to access their accounts in the messenger and triggering fake conversations. According to the Civil Police, criminals contact the person's friends and family to ask for the deposit of values, purchase of household appliances and even the purchase of cars, the reasons used are diverse.
According to information from the Cear de Ciberntica de Cigerntica of the Civil Police of Cear, which investigates the case, more than 5,000 people have already been affected throughout Brazil. In response to TechTudo, WhatsApp recommended enabling two-step verification as a protection measure.
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Scam steals WhatsApp account to extort contacts Photo: Anna Kellen Bull / Tech
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The crime does not involve breaking the security of WhatsApp. Instead of adopting sophisticated technology, the crooks take advantage of an apparent weakness in the telephone operator's identity verification mechanism. According to the police, the criminals buy new chips and call the operator to retrieve a number allegedly lost along with a stolen cell phone. In this process, it is possible that victims' personal information, such as address and CPF, are also used to deceive call center.
In possession of the device activated with the phone, the scammer installs WhatsApp on the Android phone or iPhone (iOS) and logs into the user's account. If the profile has no PIN protection, the criminal can access groups and contacts, in addition to using the photo and name of the original owner. From there, victims can be tricked more easily.
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How to protect yourself from the scam
WhatsApp recommends enabling two-step verification as a protection measure. With the feature enabled, an account can only be used on a new device after entering a previously configured six-digit password. Without the secret code, a criminal could not break into your messenger account even with the cloned chip.
According to the Civil Police, it is also important to doubt messages from friends requesting financial assistance. The recommendation is to call the sender's number for conversations and check if the messages in the chat are true. In the event that the number is cloned, the criminal would be required to answer the voice call and thus be discovered.