With over 1.2 billion users worldwide, WhatsApp has grown to become the most popular messaging app on the planet, and with so many users onboard it's a major platform for fraudsters and spammers to try and dupe a lot of people. But, that might end very soon.
Facebook-owned WhatsApp is reportedly working on a new feature that will make it a lot easier for users to identify spam messages and avoid getting duped and giving out sensitive information.
According to a report by WhatsApp change-tracker WABetaInfo, the instant messaging service is testing a feature that will alert users when they receive a message that has been forwarded several times.
The new feature will show a prominent warning via a label that reads "forwarded many times" within the chat bubble itself, alerting users that the message has been forwarded many times.
The warning feature is currently being tested in the beta version 2.17.430 of the app. The report said that WhatsApp soon is likely to roll out the new feature in the next stable update for both Android and iOS.
At present, it is possible to select 30 messages at once and forward them, but soon, users will be able to forward the same message only 25 times without any alert. If the message has been selected more than 25 times, it will display an alert reading "Message you are forwarding has been forwarded many times" to the forward picker.
However, if the users want to send the same message to many contacts, WhatsApp will recommend the user to use the Broadcast List feature, where only contacts that have your number in their contact list will be able to see the message. Spammers cannot use Broadcast Lists feature because the spammer's number won't be in their recipient's contact list and thus they will not be able to receive the message.
The introduction of the new feature shows that WhatsApp is serious about tackling fraudsters from sending fake messages, photos and videos in order to steal users' sensitive information such as bank details and personal information.
Spammers regularly use WhatsApp to spread false claims and dubious messages.
One commonly circulated spam message reads: "WhatsApp is going to cost us money soon. The only way that it will stay free is if you are a frequent user. To become a frequent user send (forward) this message to at least 10 people and your WhatsApp logo should turn Red to indicate that you are a frequent user."
There are other spam messages that give fake links stating that you have won shopping vouchers from popular e-commerce websites. These spam messages trick the user into believing it is true and elicit sensitive banking and personal information.
WhatsApp currently has a "report spam" feature for users who can identify a spam or hoax message when they receive it, but the new warning feature will come in handy for the less tech-savvy users for whom the spam messages do not appear all that obvious.
WhatsApp's spam guide advises the users to beware of messages with poor spellings and grammar or messages that request personal information.
"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," the company says.
While it wouldn't eliminate spam altogether, the new warning system will make it a lot easier to spot most of the spams because offenders never send such messages to just one target.