GUIDANCE has been issued about a messaging scam which has targeted large community and religious groups across the Thames Valley area.

Scammers will message a member of the group, pretending to also be a member, before sending a one-time code to allow the victim to join an upcoming video call for group members.

In reality, the code is a registration number to ‘port’ the WhatsApp account to a new device, allowing the scammer to take over the account and message other members of the group asking for urgent money transfers.

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Several reports have been made to Action Fraud across Berkshire and the Thames Valley Police Corporate Communications Team will be advising community groups via the local Neighbourhood policing teams.

Oliver Shaw, Detective Chief Superintendent and Head of Action Fraud and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) said: “WhatsApp continues to be a popular platform for community and religious groups, but sadly also for fraudsters.

"Here, the scammers rely on the goodwill of group members and their intrinsic desire to help others in distress.

“We urge people always to be wary when receiving contact via WhatsApp or other messaging platforms.

"This is particularly the case when being asked to provide account information – despite the fact that you may recognise the individual’s profile picture and/or name.

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“Never share your account information with anyone, and if you think it’s a fraudulent approach, report the message and block the sender within WhatsApp. To make your account more secure, we advise setting up two-step verification to provide an extra layer of protection.

"This makes it increasingly more difficult for fraudsters to gain access to somebody else’s WhatsApp account”.

A member of the Pakistani community in Reading was targeted earlier this month, causing him to lose access to his WhatsApp account.

He has since spoken out about the ordeal, warning others not to fall victim to the scam.

Mian Saleem, chairman of Reading Pakistan Community Centre, said: “It was a nightmare actually for me personally, in the community I have 3,500 contacts.

“They asked everybody I’m in an urgent situation and I need help, please send this money to an account.

“But my account was blocked at the time. It said: ‘Can you send £600 into this account, then I will transfer the money immediately’.

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“I think, luckily enough, a lot of people understand I would never ask anybody to do something like this."

If you have been a victim of fraud or cybercrime, report it at or by calling 0300 123 2040.