WhatsApp scam message is back offering free beer - what to do if you receive it

Wednesday, 22nd April 2020, 5:17 pm
Updated Wednesday, 22nd April 2020, 5:20 pm

WhatsApp users are being targeted by an old scam message that has started to recirculate during lockdown.

This comes as several other scams have begun to circulate online during the pandemic.

What does the fraudulent message say?

Users are receiving forwarded messages which claim to offer free kegs of Heineken beer.

The faux 'offer' message is part of a phishing scam, which instructs users to click on a link to a website and enter their personal details to claim the fake gift.

What is a phishing scam?

A phishing scam is a fraudulent attempt to gain sensitive data, including personal information as well as account bank card details, usernames and passwords.

Scammers often impersonate a trustworthy entity, such as a company, bank, or even a government, through electronic communications such as text or email.

When did the bogus message first appear?

The scam first emerged on WhatsApp in 2018, however earlier this month WhatsApp users in Spain began to receive the scam messages, which had falsely claimed the Mercadona supermarket supported the offer.

The scam has now made its way to England, where people have taken to social media to warn others about the scam.

One WhatsApp user took to Twitter to publicly report the hoax and ask for forgiveness:"Free kegs of @Heineken WhatsApp offer is a phishing scam. If I forwarded it to you please accept my apologies".

Another added: "Has anyone got a WhatsApp message from their friend about Heineken giving away free beer?"

While one posted: "@Heineken looks like this scam is back again but this time using #StayAtHome as the topic via WhatsApp FYI."

What should I do if I receive the message?

Responding to the initial hoax in 2018, the Dutch brewery released a statement saying "the promotion states Heineken is giving away free kegs in celebration of its 140th Anniversary, and encourages recipients to share the message.

"This is indeed a scam and is not sanctioned by Heineken.

"Promotions of this type will always be announced via official Heineken¬ģ channels.

"We do not advise consumers to click on the link, share personal data, or share the message within their networks.

"When in doubt, please contact the consumer service hotline in your market.

"Note that versions of the scam message may also circulate via Twitter and Facebook.

"If one of these messages comes your way, do not follow any links that it contains."

The phishing scam has quickly spread to users across the globe, with reports that the hoax has recently reached users in Brazil.

How is WhatsApp tackling the spread of misinformation?

Earlier this month, WhatsApp implemented strict measures to slow the spread of fake news stories on their platform, during the coronavirus pandemic.

This reduced the amount of times a single message could be mass-forwarded,from 5 recipients at a time, to one.

Yet users who are unaware that the message is a scam, can still forward this message on to their friends individually.