March 26, 2024

In mid-November, Brooklyn resident Xochitl, a 30-year-old Mexican mother, received a message in the WhatsApp group chat for her son’s soccer team that made her stop in her tracks. The group chat had been created by parents during the summer to share resources, match times or news relating to their children’s team.

The message was not related to soccer at all. 

“CHRISTMAS HELP AVAILABLE $800 DOLLARS 2021. Click in the link above to send your application,” it said.

While Xochitl, whose last name is being withheld to protect her identity, did not click on the link, not everyone who received the message was as reluctant as her. 

This message was part of the most recent fraudulent campaign that has circulated in undocumented community groups on WhatsApp. As the pandemic started, the number of scams shared within the Spanish speaking community increased along with the need for help. 

Xochitl alerted Documented via our WhatsApp service, shortly after she received the message. Documented partnered with Telemundo to investigate where these scams were coming from and we found that many originate outside the country, and use terms related to real ongoing programs  with the goal of making profits from advertisements that pay small amounts of money for each click. 

We analyzed more than 25 messages from our WhatsApp community members who were told to “share this help” with 10 friends and family members so that they, too, could apply for financial assistance that does not…

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