With over 2.5 billion users, WhatsApp is one of the most popular instant messaging apps on the market, and its popularity is growing every day. Because of its widespread use, the app remains a top target for hackers, who regularly attempt to break into the accounts of users to compromise their privacy.
Do you also suspect your WhatsApp account has been hacked? How do you know if your WhatsApp account has been compromised? How can you recover a hacked account?
How to Tell if Your WhatsApp Account Has Been Hacked
Here are a few signs you should look for to determine if your WhatsApp account has been hacked:
- New contacts in your account—ones that you don’t remember adding
- Spam messages or media sent from your account to old or newly added contacts
- An unknown device from an undisclosed location has accessed your WhatsApp account
- Notable changes to your profile details, such as your username and profile picture, that you don’t recall making
- Getting added to new groups you don’t remember being a part of
- Misconfigured account and security settings
If you notice any of the above signs and suspect that your WhatsApp may have been hacked, here are a few steps to recover your account and prevent hackers from accessing it again.
1. Regain Control of Your WhatsApp Account
Have you clicked on a suspicious link, scanned a random QR code to join a group, or done anything similar and lost complete access to your account? If this is the case, you should try to regain access to your WhatsApp account.
To reclaim your account, just log in with your phone number and enter the six-digit verification code you receive on your cell phone. It will automatically log you out from the hacker’s phone where it is currently logged in.
If the hacker hasn’t played around with your security settings and enabled two-step verification (assuming you haven’t previously enabled it; otherwise, it wouldn’t have been hacked), you can access and use your account once you enter the verification code.
In contrast, if the hacker set up two-step verification, you would need to enter a code to log in, but you wouldn’t have that code for sure. In that case, you’ll need to wait seven days for the two-step verification requirement to reset. Then, you’ll be able to sign in successfully.
2. Log Out of Your Account From All Devices
WhatsApp Web no longer requires you to have your cell phone nearby to use your account. Because of this, if scammers have linked your WhatsApp account with WhatsApp Web, they might still be using it without your knowledge. The same applies to the secret usage of your account on the WhatsApp desktop app.
Because of this, unlinking your account from any unknown devices where it is currently logged in is imperative. To do so, follow these steps:
- Open WhatsApp on your primary phone, where you just recovered your account.
- On Android, tap the three vertical dots in the top-right corner and tap Linked devices.
- Look for any suspicious devices accessing your account and remove them. Tap on the device that you wish to remove and hit Log Out.
- On an iPhone, navigate to Settings > Linked devices and unlink the unknown devices.
Recovering your account and logging it out of unauthorized devices will likely secure your account. This will make it impossible for hackers to access it again. Following that, notify your contacts about the security breach.
Hackers often attempt to hack WhatsApp accounts for monetary gain under the guise of impersonating the victims. They may ask for money from your contacts immediately, ask them for sensitive information they may misuse later, or send them phishing links to hack into their accounts.
Because of that, after you secure your account, you should notify all of your contacts about the breach, so your friends who may have received a request from scammers will be aware enough not to ignore it. And those who have already responded to the scammer’s message can refund their money (if they have already sent it) and protect their critical information.
Scammers can use your WhatsApp account to market their products or make make phishing attempts to a list of contacts in their database. Likewise, they can join random groups and spam them as well. Because of that, you should review recent chats with unknown contacts and messages sent to groups from your side.
If you see any interaction or suspicious activity that could hurt your reputation and credibility, inform those contacts and group members about the breach. Also, block all unknown contacts and leave groups you’re not interested in.
To block a contact on WhatsApp, open the contact, tap the three vertical dots in the top-right corner, then tap More, and hit Block. After that, tap on Block in the confirmation popup.
Go to the group you want to leave, tap on the three vertical dots in the top-right corner, tap More, and hit Exit group. After that, tap on Exit in the confirmation popup.
How to Secure Your WhatsApp Account
The tips we’ve covered so far will help you recover your account and undo any suspicious activities carried out through it when it was hacked. As soon as that’s done, you should foolproof your security so that no intruder can ever hack into your account again and compromise your privacy.
You can enable two-step verification to prevent others from gaining access to your account, activate the disappearing messages feature for sensitive conversations, encrypt cloud backups to protect your data and customize your privacy settings to make your WhatsApp account more secure. This will make it less likely to be hacked in the future.
Don’t Leave Your WhatsApp Account in the Hands of Scammers
As long as you recover your WhatsApp account on time, getting hacked isn’t the end of the world. Knowing how to recover it will enable you to retrieve it within moments. In addition, your due diligence can ensure that your account hasn’t been used for any shady activity that could damage your reputation in the future.
WhatsApp phishing scams are one of the most common ways hackers get into victim accounts. Knowing how they work will enable you to spot such scams and stay out of trouble.