Dangers of Messaging Apps and How to Protect Yourself
Messaging apps can be a great way to connect with family and friends. Unfortunately, what started as an easy way to send private messages has evolved into a dangerous way to get scammed, harassed, phished, or even conned out of money.
What Are Messaging Apps?
Messaging apps are also known as “chat applications”. People use messaging applications to connect, message, or talk through their phones or smart device. Some messaging apps are used in conjunction with social media platforms (like Facebook’s Messenger app), while others have gained popularity through messaging and calls alone WhatsApp).
People enjoy messaging apps as they can use them when connected through WiFi, without exposing their phone number. Another benefit is privacy controls and features (some allow messages to disappear after they’ve been read, and others can create profiles and add your photograph).
What Dangers Do Messaging Apps Pose?
There are many ways that criminals, bots, and hackers can put you at risk when you use messaging apps. Some of these hidden dangers include:
Phishing is when you click on a link that redirects you to a malicious site that will steal or expose your confidential information. Scammers and hackers know that people communicating via IM or messaging apps are more likely to click on random links. They may not expect that a link will be fraudulent, unlike when they open an email.
The links sent in messaging apps may redirect you, download malware, or try and get you to enter your information (including credit card information). The phishing sites and links might offer you a great deal and be tempting!
Bots are programs that pretend to be real-life users and send you spam, messages, advertisements, or attempt to link you to sales or phishing sites (outside the app). Other bots might suggest you play games or download additional apps.
Getting your news solely through messaging may lead you to sites that publish false information. Some of these websites could be run by other countries or created just to spread fake news.
Catfish would love to date you and whisk you off your feet! Romance scammers are con artists who pretend to be in love to get to the victim’s wallet.
Whether you enter personal information, such as your SSN or driver’s license number onto a phishing website, or trust someone, you’ve met on messaging enough to give them your confidential details – sharing too much information on apps can lead to identity theft. With identity theft, your information is compromised, and your bank accounts will be depleted or credit cards opened by a stranger under your name.
Since people can set up messaging profiles, they may use them to harass others. This could include stalking, bullying, or cyberbullying. Screenshot harassing messages, report them to the app, block the user, and contact the police if you feel unsafe.
Safest Messaging Apps
As reported by Engadget:
Even the privacy nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation does not recommend any single messaging app.
However, several popular options include many privacy control:
Messenger is popular and will alert you before you connect with new users. Messages from people you’re not connected to or Facebook friends with, go to a different inbox. You will receive a warning about what information will be shown if you reply to the person who messaged you in “other” messages. You can also send secret messages.
WhatsApp is also a popular app with about 1.5 billion users. It uses encryption to keep your messages private from, say, Facebook. Use caution if you upload your chat history to your computer, as it could lead to privacy concerns.
While messaging apps are not going away, making your profile (when you can) private can help protect you. Ignore message requests from strangers and smart scan anyone you connect with (even if a friend of a friend) on Social Catfish. By using Social Catfish, you can search by name, username, phone number, image, and email address.