Emails claiming to be from mobile messaging service WhatsApp should be treated with caution, users have been warned, following the discovery of a new phishing scam.

Cyber criminals were found to be sending emails, complete with the WhatsApp branding, telling recipients that they need to pay a subscription fee in order to keep their messaging accounts. Of course, the emails aren’t from WhatsApp, but are instead a scam aimed at exhorting bank details from unsuspecting users.

The message warns recipients that they have used WhatsApp for more than a year, so will need to pay a subscription to keep their accounts – which can be done by signing into the (phoney) customer portal with their mobile number. Only after payment is made, it claims, would users be able to continue sending and receiving messages.

To end with a flourish, the message even has a link to a ‘community’ of users, for those who have questions about their email.

Though it may seem a rather workaday phishing scam on the surface, this actually runs a little deeper than may be first thought. After all, WhatsApp did previously charge using this model – so if people who are unsure whether it’s a scam undertake some research of their own, they could potentially be swayed.

That said, WhatsApp ended its charging model back in January 2016, with an announcement that its app would be free for everybody.

This latest scheme isn’t thought to be linked to an existing SMS scam, although it’s very similar. The text scam sees smartphone users receive messages telling them to verify their WhatsApp accounts and take out a lifetime subscription for $0.99. The fact that phones displayed this message as being from WhatsApp in the recipient field, and the relatively small amount requested, is thought to have conned some individuals into divulging their bank details. The result, of course, is them losing a great deal more than just $0.99.