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Sainsbury's and Morrisons targeted in WhatsApp scams

UK supermarkets Sainsbury’s and Morrisons have acknowledged their names are being used by scammers targeting consumers via instant messaging service, WhatsApp.

Hackers have been looking to steal consumers’ personal data by creating fake messages on WhatsApp, which appear to be from friends or family and advise people to click on links to receive special retail offers.

Consumer rights group Which? contacted Sainsbury’s and Morrisons to inform them of the fake messaging circulating the popular Facebook-owned service, with the latter confirming it is a scam.

A Sainsbury’s spokesperson also told Which?: “Customers should always be mindful of phishing scams."

The retailer added: “The message is not from Sainsbury’s and we are advising customers to delete it.”

URLs shared as part of the phishing messages often include the name of the retailer they are purporting to be from, and once clicked on they lead users through to an online survey which requests personal details. The scammers are then able to achieve scale because consumers who fill in the fake survey are then encouraged to click a button to share the link with their WhatsApp contacts.

New Which? data reveals that one in three people who text have received a scam message in the last six months, which it says leaves them vulnerable to money or data loss.

The campaigning organisation surveyed members of the public to investigate the scale and impact of messaging scams on people across the UK, and found of those who have received a scam message in the last six months, 7% had lost personal data, money – or both.

Which? wants companies of all types to implement better protections to prevent fraudulent messages reaching people’s phones and devices.

The survey found that, after texts, Facebook Messenger was the most common platform for messaging scams, with 16% of users having received a fraudulent message in the last six months and 35% targeted at any time. Some 10% of WhatsApp users had received a scam message in the last six months, and 22% had been targeted at least once in the past.

HMRC and PayPal were named by Which? as common names used in this type of scam.

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