Recently I have been receiving some chat messages on WhatsApp.
The first read: “Hi, Mr Robert, long time no see. How are you?”
The second read: “Hello Kevin, I’m sorry,I forgot the meeting address I gave yesterday. Can you give me a new address? I’m sorry to disturb you.”
The third read: “Why does my address book have your number, have we done business before?”
They all seemed innocuous, as if people had contacted me by mistake. Usually, when I receive what I think is an email or chat message in error, and I think it may be important to the sender or the actual intended recipient, I reply and alert them that I got it by mistake.
But these three cases had one common feature that aroused my suspicions and that is that all three senders had profile images of young East Asian women. That seemed like too much of a coincidence.
So it looks like a fishing expedition to lure me in to some scam, like the infamous Nigerian prince. But what is the end game here? If I reply and say that it was sent to me by mistake, what comes next? Does the sender then try to engage me in some way? But how?
I suppose I could have replied to see what happens next. But I did not want to get involved in some dreary attempt at scamming me for money., even if I was never going to fall for it. So I did the next best thing and looked online to see what might be going on, and came across this article where the Singapore police warn people about the existence of this scam and what to do if you get one.
An increasingly common ruse on platforms such as WhatsApp features a picture of a woman and a message starting with: “Hi, I haven’t heard from you for a long time.” The senders often claim to be based in Hong Kong.
Police said the messages aim to lure recipients into communicating further with the scammers, who are intent on phishing for personal information and possibly tricking them into handing over funds.
The best thing to do is of course to ignore the message entirely and never click on any link that is sent to you by an unknown source. Even if the sender’s name is a familiar one, I do not click unless it is accompanied by a personal message that a stranger could not have written, because sometimes scammers hack the address books of people and send out messages in their names. I have known people to fall for that. If in doubt, I contact the sender to verify that it was indeed sent by them. This can be tedious but since the issues are never urgent, there is little lost by being cautious.
This video clip has someone explaining what happened when he did reply pointing out the initial error, the kind of thing that I might have done.