Crooks trying to blackmail worried Israelis on WhatsApp

Israelis looking for their missing relatives in the south of the country have become the targets of cybercriminals, who are trying to trick them into transferring money for information.

Trying to take advantage of the fact that many Israelis have been taken hostage by the rampaging Hamas militants, these criminals have now started a blackmail campaign on WhatsApp, the instant messaging platform.

Israel’s National Cyber Directorate has confirmed that families, desperately trying to reach their missing relatives, have started getting WhatsApp messages with senders claiming to be in possession of vital information about the hostages who are being held in Gaza.

“Have you received an extortion request or a request to provide personal information, a password or a code on WhatsApp? Ignore it. Block the sender and report them to WhatsApp using the ‘report’ button in the contact settings,” the Directorate said.

The perpetrators of the scam are most likely Arabs from Jordan, the organization said. They allegedly claim to be close to the Palestinians in Gaza who hold the missing relatives, and ask for a “proof fee” of around 1,000 shekels ($255) to pass on information to the families.

The crooks appear to be using posts that can be found on Facebook or other social networks, using a profile picture of the missing person to convince the families to pay up.

More than 700 people have been killed in Israel since Hamas launched its attacks on Saturday morning, including 260 at a music festival. The Israeli government has said that more than 100 Israelis have been kidnapped in the attacks, and most people are thought to have been taken into Gaza.

Almost 500 people have also died in Gaza after Israel launched massive retaliatory air strikes. The Israeli Air Force said on Monday morning that it had struck over 500 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza overnight.

A parallel cyber war is raging. Hacktivists, including cyber gangs such as the infamous Killnet, a Russian hacker group, targeted various Israeli organizations over the weekend.

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