Hit in the WhatsApp scam? Here's how to get your money back – at a price – if you are fast enough

Business Insider SA
WhatsApp security settings

  • Scammers are hijacking WhatsApp accounts to impersonate people and ask for emergency money, at the moment via First National Bank's eWallet.
  • An eWallet transaction can be reversed as long as the money has not yet been withdrawn at an ATM, so you can get your money back if you are fast enough.
  • FNB will charge you, though.
  • Here's how to reverse a FNB eWallet payment from your cellphone, or by phoning the bank.
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A new scam is seeing South Africans' WhatsApp accounts hijacked so that fraudsters can impersonate them and ask for emergency cash transfers from the friends of victims – sometimes successfully.

The attack typically beings with an unauthorised porting of a cellphone number from one network to another, so that scammers can take control of the phone number and receive SMS verification codes.

The friends who receive sudden requests for cash have only one technical hint that they are being scammed: a notice from WhatsApp that the victim's security code has changed.

See also – SA's new scam: here's what to do if your WhatsApp account has been hijacked

All the verified attacks to date have asked for transfers via First National Bank's eWallet. That service allows money to be sent to a cellphone number, using only the cellphone number. The money can be immediately withdrawn from FNB ATMs using only the information that is sent via SMS.

That makes it easy for fraudsters to get their hands on cash quickly anywhere in the country.

But there is a way to reverse eWallet transfers – for a cost – as long as it is done within 72 hours of the original transfer, and if the money has not yet been withdrawn.

See also – SA is seeing a new WhatsApp scam outbreak: here's how to protect yourself

FNB tells us you can phone it on 087 575 9405 for help with reversals. But if you can't make a phone call, can't get through, or don't have all the details of your accounts to hand, there is another way using USSD commands.

Here's how you can get your money back if you made an eWallet payment to a scammer, provided you are quick enough.

Dial *130*321# from the mobile phone associated with your FNB account, and select "send money".

ewallet reversal

If you are not yet registered for cellphone banking you will be asked for the PIN number on one of your bank cards.

ewallet reversal

This can be a little scary, seeing that you've just been scammed, but be reassured you are talking to FNB by the fact that it knows the last digits of your card.

Once you authenticate yourself via a card PIN you'll be asked to set up a new cellphone banking PIN.

ewallet reversal

Now you can get to the reversing, though, confusingly, the menu you are presented with will be slightly different.

ewallet reversal

Select 'eWallet reversal'.

ewallet reversal
You will be warned that reversals are possible only within 72 hours, and are subject to the funds still being available (so not yet withdrawn from an ATM).
ewallet reversal

With any luck the next screen will show you the transfer you are trying to stop.

ewallet reversal

Once you select "Reverse" you should be asked for a reason. Tick "fraud"; it could help the bank detect trouble faster and may just save other people.

ewallet reversal

Success – for R13.95.

ewallet reversal

FNB tells us it charges a flat fee of R13.95 for reversals, no matter the size of the transaction.

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