Tech experts say cyber thieves are always looking for ways to come after your money and personal information, and group messaging apps have become a popular way to do it.
Ally Edmonson has a lot of apps on her phone, but GroupMe is by far one of her favorites.
“All of my friends are on GroupMe,” she explained.
GroupMe is a group messaging app that allows large groups to chat without being bombarded with text alerts and notifications.
Earlier this year, Edmonson got a direct message from someone in one of her groups wishing her a happy Near Year. It also came with a link.
She didn’t think much of it until she got another message, and another message.
“And they’re from different people with this link,” she said.
When she clicked the link it sent her to a site that’s advertising a weight loss pill. Edmonson said she went on social media and learned the link was being sent to a number of GroupMe users across the country.
“Clicking on these links can be harmful because it can cause malware to be downloaded. It can even pull credit card information out of your browser,” said Keith Barthold, tech expert and president of DKB Innovative.
Barthold said the link appears to be part of an identity theft, phishing or malware distribution. He said group messaging apps have become breeding grounds for criminal activity.
“There’s definitely opportunity for people to get scammed,” he explained.
Other GroupMe users like Edmonson are sounding off on social media. One user tweeted “Some dude sent me a direct message on GroupMe that has a link to a weight loss pill.” Another tweeted, “This GroupMe hack/virus. Whatever is about to have me throw the whole app away.”
Barthold said hackers are constantly finding new vulnerabilities and new ways to exploit people.
“It’s kind of concerning that they’ve taken it this far,” Edmonson said.
GroupMe told NBC 5 it has received multiple reports from other users stating their own account is experiencing the same issue. GroupMe also said their engineers are currently looking into this.
A spokesperson for Microsoft, the parent company of GroupMe, said “some GroupMe customers reported that their accounts were being used to send spam mails. We looked into this and determined that the security of the GroupMe service wasn’t affected.
If you use a group messaging app, here are Samantha Chatman’s Solutions:
• Change your password regularly.
• Never click on suspicious link, no matter how curious you are. It’s not worth it.
• If a friend sends you an odd message that doesn’t make sense, pick up the phone and call them.