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Emerging Fraud Spans Social Networks

Insite investigators have uncovered a fraud scheme that spans two Meta platforms—Facebook and WhatsApp—and is incredibly hard to detect. Here’s what we know:

The perpetrators use a multi-pronged approach that starts on Facebook. They hijack existing Facebook pages and repurpose them to fit the scam’s needs. By using existing Facebook pages, the scammers can circumvent security protocols that Meta/Facebook have established which would have flagged the account as suspicious.

Once the fraudsters repurpose the pre-existing Facebook page to mirror a generic stock trading advice service, the criminals utilize the Facebook page to run generic Meta ads (across Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger) offering exclusive stock trading advice to unsuspecting victims. Once a victim engages with the page, the fraudsters direct the targeted individual to join an exclusive WhatsApp chat.

The “investment manager” administrator of the WhatsApp chat will usually use the legitimate name, image, and professional reputation of a well-known investment manager from a prominent financial firm. The chat itself is limited to 10-12 WhatsApp numbers, the vast majority of which are spoofed numbers also operated by the fraudsters. The fraudsters will post in the chat via different WhatsApp member numbers to perpetuate the illusion of authenticity and realized gains. The fraudsters will then suggest stock tips or other financial advice in the chat in an effort to dupe the victim into “investing” in a certain stock, which would likely end with the theft of the victim’s money.

This scheme relies on the end-to-end encryption of WhatsApp, which means a group is private (only known to its members) and cannot be found via an external search of the platform’s database. The only way for someone to discover the fraud is by following the breadcrumbs. That’s exactly what our investigators have done—starting by interviewing the victims of the WhatsApp group. The victims pointed us to the Facebook ads directing traffic to the WhatsApp groups, which directed us to the fraudulent Facebook pages. Using Meta’s ad library, our investigators identified hundreds of the same ad type all directing traffic to these WhatsApp group chats.

The key to detecting this latest phenomenon is awareness. Want to know what to look for? Click here to request the briefing.


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