WhatsApp has become the nation’s favourite Social Media platform for various reasons. It makes it easy to connect and share information. The very nature of WhatsApp also allows false information and scams to spread fast.
Last week, there was this one about some UK supermarket giants distributing vouchers and Toyota distributing cars (see figure 1 and 2). All the unsuspecting recipients of these messages had to do was to click on the link and their lives will change for the better. Clicking on such a message may give scammers access to download personal information from your phone and install cookies to track you. In other instances, clicking on the URL took users to a fake website designed to trick them into handing over personal information.
This week I share some safety and security tips mainly culled from WhatsApp. These include tools and features designed by WhatsApp to help you stay safe while using the platform.
WhatsApp Terms of Service
One way we help you stay safe on WhatsApp is through our Terms of Service. Our Terms of Service set forth the activities on WhatsApp that are prohibited. For instance, submitting content (in the status, profile photos or messages) that is illegal, obscene, defamatory, threatening, intimidating, harassing, hateful, racially, or ethnically offensive, or instigates or encourages conduct that would be illegal, or otherwise inappropriate violates our Terms of Service. We will ban a user if we believe that user is violating our Terms of Service.
On WhatsApp, we have created some basic controls that you can adjust as you see fit to help you protect yourself:
Control who sees your information
You can set your last seen, profile photo and/or status to the following options:
Everyone: Your last seen, profile photo and/or status will be available to all WhatsApp users.
My Contacts: Your last seen, profile photo and/or status will be available to your contacts from your address book only.
Nobody: Your last seen, profile photo and/or status will not be available to anyone.
If you uncheck Read receipts, you will not send read receipts. You will also not be able to see other users’ read receipts.
Note: Read Receipts are always sent for group chats, even if you turn off the option in your privacy settings.
Control what you see and with whom you interact
You can block specific contacts from interacting with you via WhatsApp.
Control what you share
You can also decide what to share with your contacts on WhatsApp, and we encourage you to think carefully before you decide to share something. Ask yourself: would you want others to see what you’ve sent?
Please be advised that we do not retain messages after they have been delivered, in the ordinary course of providing our service. Once a message is delivered over WhatsApp, to help ensure the safety, confidentiality and security of the messages you send we do not store the message.
However, when you share a chat, photo, video, file or voice message with someone else on WhatsApp, they will have a copy of these messages. They will have the ability to re-share these messages with others on and off WhatsApp.
WhatsApp also has a location feature that you can use to share your then-current location via a WhatsApp message. You should only share your location with people you trust.
Advanced safety and security features
Report issues to WhatsApp
You can send reports to WhatsApp by contacting us from inside the app.
- On Android: Simply go to WhatsApp> Menu Button > Settings > About and help > Contact Us.
- On iPhone: Simply go to WhatsApp> Settings > About and Help > Contact Us.
- On Windows Phone: Simply go to WhatsApp> more > settings > about > support.
Please provide as much information as possible.
Important: If you feel that you or someone else is in emotional or physical danger, please contact your local law enforcement authorities. They are better able to help in these cases.
We encourage you to report problematic content to us. Please keep in mind that to help ensure the safety, confidentiality and security of your messages, we generally do not have the contents of messages available to us, which limits our ability to verify the report and take action.
When needed, you can take a screenshot of the content and share it, along with any available contact info, with appropriate law enforcement authorities.
The first time you receive a message from an unknown number you will be given the option to report the number to WhatsApp as spam directly from the app.
We may ban accounts if we believe the account activity is in violation of our Terms of Service. Per our Terms of Service, we may retain the right to ban you without notification. Please be aware that a user report of conduct in violation of our Terms of Service will not necessarily result in us banning the user or otherwise taking action against the user.
Please review the “Acceptable Use of Our Services” section of our Terms of Service carefully to learn more about the appropriate uses of WhatsApp and the activities that violate our Terms of Service.
Spam and Hoaxes
We work diligently to reduce any spam messages that come through our system. Creating a safe space for users to communicate with one another is a priority. However, just like regular SMS or phone calls, it is possible for other WhatsApp users who have your phone number to contact you. So, we want to help you identify and handle spam and hoax messages.
Spam and hoax messages may or may not come from one of your contacts. These types of messages spread false information and are designed to deceive you and prompt you to act in a certain way. If a message looks suspicious or sounds too good to be true, don’t tap on it, share it or forward it.
Watch out for messages that:
- Include misspellings or grammatical mistakes
- Ask you to tap on a link
- Ask you to share your personal information (like credit card and bank account numbers, birthdate, passwords, etc.)
- Ask you to forward the message
- Ask you to click on a link to “activate” a new feature
- Say that you have to pay to use WhatsApp (WhatsApp is a free app. We will never ask you to pay to use WhatsApp and you do not have to do anything to use WhatsApp for free.)
What to do
If you are receiving the message from an unknown number, you will be given the option to report the number to WhatsApp as spam directly from the app.
If you’ve received spam from a contact, delete the message and do not click on any links or provide personal information. Tell the contact that the message they sent includes spam and point them to this WhatsApp safety page.
You can also send reports of spam to WhatsApp by contacting us from inside the app.
I would entreat us all to use the platform responsible. To help curb the spread of false information, kindly check the source of the information before helping to circulate it. Be it job opportunities, appeal for funds etc.
If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is – so slow down and take a couple of minutes to think. Don’t be pressurized into making quick decisions. Say that you’re going to hang up, then call back on a number you are comfortable with, either from a statement or on the back of your card.
Figure 1- if you watch closely you will see the cross in the d in “asda”. Manually typing this url will take you to an error page!
Figure 2- one of the scams of WhatsApp, if you watch closely you will see the dot on the g in “argos”