Receiving a message on WhatsApp from someone you don’t know is always a bit unnerving.
But when the person in question is a woman with thin, long hair, bulging eyes and a creepy toothless smile, hitting the "Block" button should be a no-brainer.
And yet some young users of the popular messaging app are engaging with this mysterious character, known as "Momo", and even seeking her out online.
Once they have added Momo as a contact on WhatsApp, they are sent a series of "challenges", and receive threats if they fail to complete them.
Challenges can range from fairly minor acts of delinquency to dangerous acts of self-harm – and in some extreme cases, suicide.
Many parents are understandably concerned about reports that "Momo Challenge" has spread to the UK, but there is a lot of confusion about what it actually is.
Who is Momo?
The first thing to understand is that Momo is not a single account or person. It’s a meme.
The picture of the woman with bulging eyes is a cropped photo of a sculpture that was made for an art exhibition in Japan three years ago.
Anyone can set up a WhatsApp account with the username Momo, and use the picture as their avatar. All they need is a dedicated mobile number.
When the Momo Challenge took off in India last year, many people were using apps like Text now, 2nd line and WhatsCall to generate anonymous mobile numbers.
They would then use these numbers to create WhatsApp accounts in the name of Momo, and send "prank" messages to their friends.
How did Momo get my number?
If you or your child receives a WhatsApp message from "Momo", it could well be this kind of hoax message from someone you know.
However, some cyber criminals are using online platforms to spread the world about Momo Challenge on a bigger scale, for their own ends.
They do this by making video clips featuring the Momo character, and sharing them on YouTube or other social media channels, encouraging viewers to send a WhatsApp message to a given number.
These clips are not always obvious, but may be spliced into seemingly innocent videos of children’s shows such as Peppa Pig , or Minecraft demos.
There are also reports of people using the chat function in video games like Fortnite to get hold of children’s phone numbers.
Once initial contact has been made, the cyber criminals can then bombard them with graphic images and instructions to harm themselves and others.
They can also potentially send links and attachments which, when clicked, allow the cyber criminals to hack into their phones.
What’s the appeal?
Part of the attraction of Momo is the sheer creepiness of the image. It is a ghost story for the digital age.
But the trend has really taken off thanks to some popular YouTubers posting videos of themselves "trying out" the Momo challenge, (or pretending to).
These videos get shared around and discussed in the playground, fuelling children’s fascination with the shadowy figure.
What should you do?
If your child starts receiving messages from a WhatApp account using Momo as its profile picture, the best course of action is to block it immediately.
You can do this on an iPhone by opening up the chat, tapping their name along the top, scrolling down and tapping "Block Contact". You’ll have to tap "Block" again to confirm you want to block them.
On an Android phone, open up to your chat with them and tap the three dots in the top right corner. Tap "Block" and confirm it.
In both cases you’ll also see an option to "Report Contact", which results in the most recent messages in the chat being sent to WhatsApp.
"WhatsApp cares deeply about the safety of our users," a WhatsApp spokesperson said.
"It’s easy to block any phone number and we encourage users to report problematic messages to us so we can take action."
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