Spanish crook snags almost $53,000 in sneaky smartphone scam

A 23-year-old man was arrested last week in the Spanish region of Murcia for a simple but ingenious scam involving the ultra-popular Whatsapp messaging system that netted him nearly $53,000 over two months.

According to a report from the Spanish newspaper Levante, the alleged criminal used social media to advertise an app that would let users spy on other people's instant messaging conversations over Whatsapp for no charge. All they would have to do is visit a website and input their phone number, so that they could receive instructions for downloading and installing the app.

[MORE SECURITY:Google Glass susceptible to poison-pill QR code]

Naturally, putting your phone number into the accused scammer's bogus website turns out to have been a bad idea instead of hooking you up with a James Bond app, the site signs you up for a pricey messaging service that sends spammy advertisements to your phone, and charges you between $2 and $10 each for the dubious privilege.

The really clever part of the scam, obviously, is that it dramatically reduces the chance of anybody reporting the scammer to law enforcement who's going to admit to the police that they tried to spy on other people over a measly $10?

Nevertheless, according to Levante, word eventually got around ironically enough, on social media and Spanish police swung into action, arresting the alleged crook and seizing his computer and four hard drives. They're not ruling out the possibility that others were involved in the alleged fraud, however, nor that similar types of copycat scams could spring up in its wake.

The spy app for Whatsapp in this case was a fake, of course, but there have been several other high-profile mobile security incidents in the news of late that were quite real including the news that a dev site used by iOS programmers was hacked last week, and that the volume of mobile malware targeting Android devices recently rose by more than 600%.

(H/T: Carloz from

Email Jon Gold at and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

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