Signal App Scams: How to Protect Yourself

Every day, countless people across the world fall victim to cleverly orchestrated scams by individuals with malicious intentions.  Indeed, scams have infiltrated almost every corner of the digital space — from email inboxes to e-commerce sites to social media sites and, more recently, messaging apps.  And Signal, often seen as a beacon of hope for privacy enthusiasts, has become the latest instrument for scammers looking to defraud folks out of their hard-earned cash.

In this article, we’ll uncover some of the most popular scams on the Signal private messenger app, how they work, and how to stay safe.

Here’s what’s covered…

What Is Signal?

Signal is a private messaging app that allows you to send instant text messages or make voice or video calls through the internet.  The app also supports group chats, file sharing, disappearing messages, and voice recording, all of which are protected with end-to-end encryption.

While Signal has been around for years, it took off in 2021.  This was after a privacy policy change by WhatsApp, one of its main rivals ( that left a lot of people questioning the safety and security of their data on the app), plus endorsements by famous personalities like Elon Musk and Edward Snowden.  Today, Signal has over 40 million monthly users.

What Makes the Signal Messaging App Different?

Signal’s main priority is user privacy.  The company offers end-to-end encrypted messaging, which means that messages sent via the platform can only be read by the sender and the recipient.  What’s more, Signal doesn’t allow data mining for profit.  It also hides conversation metadata, meaning that the only individual who can see who sent a particular message is the recipient.

Additionally, Signal is an open-source app, which allows independent experts to scrutinize its code, identify any vulnerabilities or suspicious actions, and resolve them.

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Signal and Scammers

Unfortunately, Signal is not immune to scams, despite its rigorous focus on user privacy and security.  In fact, its increased popularity has made it an attractive playground for crooks.  They see an opportunity in new users who might not be familiar with the world of digital scams.

Not to mention, since Signal users often migrate to the platform in search of security and privacy, they might carry with them a false sense of invulnerability.  This can make them prime targets for deceitful or manipulative tactics.

Most Common Signal App Scams

The following are some of the most popular scams on the Signal app at the moment.

Fake Hiring Scams 

Here, the scammer will contact you on Signal with an unsolicited job offer, often a “work-from-home opportunity.”  Alternatively, they might post a job online and ask you to contact them via Signal to learn more about it. 

As part of the ‘hiring’ process, the scammer might ask for a payment to supposedly cover the costs of training, background checks, and so on.  Or they might simply ask you to provide personal details like your bank information, and even your social security number so they can onboard you — details that they can then use to commit fraud and steal from you.

The most effective defense against this scam is to simply stay away from any job offers that require communication via Signal.  Legitimate companies don’t onboard people via Signal, nor do they ask for any money upfront.  If you are seriously interested in the opportunity, do some due diligence first.  For example, go to the hiring company’s website to authenticate its existence or check for online reviews.

Romance Scams

Everyone dreams of true love.  Scammers are well aware of this universal desire and can use it to defraud you.  Romance scams, unfortunately, are a double whammy.  They not only carry the risk of financial loss but also emotional distress.  

With romance scams, someone contacts you on Signal and pretends to be interested in a romantic relationship with you.  A common ploy involves the scammer posing as someone from a different country, lamenting about the lack of love prospects in their homeland, and expressing how they would just love to find love in a new place — like your current location.  Once the scammer has established a relationship or built a rapport with you over time, they may request money for various reasons, for example, to buy an airline ticket to visit you or to cater to an emergency.

Like with hiring scams, your best line of defense against romance scams is to avoid any love pitches that start on Signal, particularly from people you don’t know or have never met in person.  If you’re hoping to find love via digital means, you are better off sticking with dating apps.  It also goes without saying that you should never send any money to someone you haven’t met personally.  Remember that real love doesn’t come with a price tag.

Fake Prize Scams

With this scam, you’ll receive messages out of the blue, telling you that you’ve won a prize.  But to claim it, you either have to follow a link (which is most likely to be a malware trap), pay a processing fee, or provide your personal info (which the scammer then uses to commit crimes like identity theft).

If you haven’t entered any contests, chances are that you haven’t won anything.  Therefore, always approach such ‘good news’ with a healthy dose of skepticism.  That means not clicking any clicks, providing any personal information, and of course, never sending any money to ‘process your prize’.  Simply delete the message and block the sender immediately.

Impersonation of Trusted Contacts

In this phishing scheme, the scammer might impersonate somebody you know, like a friend or relative.  They will message you asking for money, often spinning a tale of being stranded or in some emergency.  Since the plea seems to be coming from a known person, it’s quite easy to fall victim to this scam.

Before you send any help, always verify by calling or using a different communication method.  If it’s a close friend or family member, ask a question that only they would know the answer to.

Wrong Number Scams

The wrong number scam starts with someone sending you a message that seems important or personal, but that’s misdirected. It could be something like “Hey, I got my new phone! or “Hi, it’s been a long time, do you want to catch up?.”   If you respond, the scammer might profusely apologize and say they thought you were someone else. 

But they will not end the conversation there and will instead try to keep it going.  They might ask about your day or share a personal detail.  It’s all part of fostering a connection, making you less likely to suspect that you’re being set up for a scam.  The conversation can stretch over days or even weeks

Eventually, there will be a ‘turn’ in the conversation, with the scammer introducing a problem or opportunity.  They might mention a personal crisis, a financial hurdle, or even an “amazing investment opportunity” they were supposedly discussing with the “intended” contact.  By this point, they’re banking on the emotional connection they’ve built to pressure you into helping them out or ‘investing’.  Of course, it’s all a ruse to con you.
If you receive a message from a ‘wrong number’ on Signal, either ignore it entirely or politely acknowledge the mistake and then promptly end the conversation.  Limiting engagement minimizes the scammer’s opportunity to manipulate or deceive you.  If the person contacting you insists that you know them, or is particularly aggressive, try putting the phone number associated with their Signal App account into Spokeo’s Reverse Phone Lookup.  The results — which include the name most recently associated with that phone number along with information like associated addresses, emails, and even criminal records (additional fees may apply) — can help you decide how to proceed.

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Best Practices To Avoid Signal App Scams

If you are an ardent user of Signal, the following best practices can help you avoid falling victim to some of the scams we’ve discussed above.

  • Limit who can reach you: Use the privacy setting on Signal to limit who can send you messages or initiate contact with you.  For example, restrict contact to mutual contacts.
  • Use video calls: If someone is claiming to be a known contact or is trying to build trust for any reason, propose a video call through Signal.  This can quickly help verify their identity.
  • Stay educated: Stay updated about common scam tactics, for example, by joining online forums or reading blogs.  Share any knowledge you learn with friends and family to protect them.
  • Limit link clicking: Avoid clicking on unsolicited links, even if they appear to be from known contacts.  Remember that scammers can spoof identities.  If something seems off, verify with the sender through another means of communication, like text or call, before clicking.
  • Don’t succumb to pressure: Scammers often use high-pressure tactics, such as claiming they have an ’emergency’ or that you have ‘limited time” to perform a certain action, like claiming a prize.  Take your time.  Authentic businesses or friends will understand if you need a moment to verify.
  • Look for language oddities: Messages from scammers might have odd phrasings, misspellings, or grammatical errors.  If something doesn’t read right, be cautious.
  • Don’t share sensitive info: If you aren’t sure of the identity of the person you’re communicating with on Signal, never share any personal or financial information.
  • Listen to your instincts: If a message or offer seems too good to be true, or if something feels off, trust your gut and proceed with caution.

What To Do If You’ve Fallen Victim to a Signal App Scam

If you suspect you’ve fallen victim to a Signal scam, don’t lose hope.  There are steps you can take to salvage the situation, minimize the damage, or prevent a repeat of the incident in the future. 

Change Your Credentials

If you’ve shared sensitive information like account usernames or passwords, change them immediately.  This helps minimize further damage by cutting off the scammer’s access to your accounts.

Contact Financial Institutions

If the scam involves sharing banking or credit card information, contact your bank and credit card company immediately to inform them of potentially fraudulent activity.  They can monitor your account for unusual activity, freeze your account temporarily, and perhaps even reverse any authorized transactions.  You can also consider ordering a credit freeze to stop scammers from accessing your credit reports and opening fraudulent accounts.

Document Everything

Take screenshots of all communications with the scammer, including messages exchanged and their contact details.  This can be useful in subsequent investigations and in proving you were scammed.

Report to the FTC

Consider reporting the incident to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) through its online fraud reporting tool.  The commission can offer useful guidance on how to protect yourself going forward.  Your report can also help in building cases against scammers, protecting others from going through the same fate.  

Scan Your Device for Malware

If you clicked on a suspicious link or downloaded an attachment during the scam, there’s a chance that malware might have been introduced to your device.  Use a reputable antivirus or anti-malware software to scan and clean your gadget.  (You can check out our full guide on what to do if your phone has been hacked for more information.)

Alert Your Contacts

Scammers could use your information to target your contacts.  Inform your friends, family, and colleagues about the scam, so they are on guard and don’t fall for any fraudulent messages that appear to be from you.

Wrapping Up

Signal claims to offer a haven for those looking for secure, private online communication.  But as we’ve seen, it’s not impervious to fraudsters.  In this article, we’ve unpacked some of the most common scams on Signal and given you some useful tips for protecting yourself.  Keep these in mind when using the app for a safer experience.

Worth mentioning also is that there are numerous tools available to enhance your online security.  Spokeo, for example, is one of the tools that could be worth looking into.  If an unknown number sends you a message on Signal or any other platform, a quick search on Spokeo can provide insights into who’s behind it.  This way, you’ll know if it’s a legit person or a scammer.

See what Spokeo has to offer by trying it out today. 

Sean LaPointe is an expert freelance writer with experience in finance and tech. He has written for several well-known brands and publications, including The Motley Fool, Angi/HomeAdvisor, and CapLinked.

Sources

Cloudflare: What is end-to-end encryption (E2EE)

Federal Trade Commission (FTC): Report to Help Fight Fraud

Bloomberg: Why WhatsApp’s New Privacy Rules Have Sparked Alarm

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