Scambusting ‘Friend in need’ messages with WhatsApp

The Brief

In November 2021, Barley worked with WhatsApp to educate consumers on how to protect themselves against so-called ‘friend in need’ scams – where a message arrives, supposedly from a friend or family member, asking for money or personal information.

Insights and Approach

Barley provided context and insight into friend in need scams, working with partners to shape the angle and develop the messaging of the ‘STOP. THINK. CALL.’ campaign.

Barley supported by:

• Creating a bespoke campaign landing page on the NTS Scams team’s Friends Against Scams website

• Pitching the story to our key journalist contacts, supporting WhatsApp’s own media contact programme and securing coverage with BBC News

• Providing ongoing guidance and advice to add authority, expert insights and credibility to the integrated campaign, including reviewing proposed content for Tik Tok and Instagram

The Outcome

The project delivered 86 items of media coverage including BBC News, ITV News, Sky News, Daily Mail, The Sun, Daily Mirror and others.

Louise Baxter, Head of NTS Scams Team took part in a radio day, delivering 11 broadcast interviews.

This helped to inform consumers about these types of message-based scams which is important for the consumer protection landscape, given that the number of WhatsApp scams has surged by more than 2,000% in just one year.

Action Fraud was so impressed by the campaign that they launched their own advice and guidance on the back of our story, providing more momentum to the campaign, amplifying our key messages and endorsing WhatsApp’s approach to raising consumer awareness. 130 articles were written about the campaign by a number of national and regional outlets including the Daily Star, Daily Express and The Guardian.




consumers losses reported to fraud scams (NFIB)



increase in fraud and computer misuse crimes in the year to September 2021



people a year are estimated to fall victim to a scam, but only 5% of scams are reported



of identity fraud takes place over the internet


people have fallen victim to a scam after seeing an online advert (Which?)



reported amount lost to a scam, whilst cost to wellbeing for each victim is around £3,684 (Which?)

“I was deeply impressed with the approach of NTS and their communications team to our recent collaboration, as well as their evident sector expertise and the strategic insights they shared.

“From the outset, their detailed knowledge of the consumer protection landscape and their understanding of what makes a strong story in this space – as well as a clear commitment to a productive partnership – helped shape the campaign and secure more than 80 pieces of media coverage to warn consumers about scams.

“They have since introduced us to Action Fraud to help extend and amplify the campaign. I would certainly recommend considering a partnership with NTS to help bolster scam prevention initiatives, which are increasingly important across our industry.”

Alison Bonny | Head of Communications EMEA, WhatsApp Inc