Consumer choice website Which? has received an increasing number of reports about scammers impersonating a son or daughter-in-need and asking for financial help on WhatsApp
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Scammers are manipulating caring Brit parents into emptying their bank accounts by pretending to be a child in need of financial help.
There has been a huge spike in “hello mum” and “hello dad” fraud cases which involve fraudsters posing as family members.
The sinister con is already thought to have swindled £50,000 from the pockets of concerned parents across the UK, consumer magazine Which? reports.
A series of text messages shared by the publication show the fraudster’s mode of operation as they try to con one mum out of her hard-earned cash.
The scammer – who messages from an unknown number – starts the conversation by pretending to be the target’s daughter.
In an attempt to make the message less suspicious, the fraudster says the daughter lost her phone – the reason behind her change of number.
As the conman sets up the request, they say: “I’m ashamed to ask you this… But I have overlooked something very important. x”.
The scammer’s fabricated story involves the daughter being unable to do an urgent online banking transaction after being locked out of her account when she got a new number.
The message reads: “Well mum, I can’t do the banking by my own phone number.
“I have now a payment that must be paid today at the latest. That’s now impossible.
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“Because of the security checks which is linked to my old number. Might it be okay if you pay the payment until I get back into my banking? That will be on Friday.”
Thankfully, this mum was clued up and demanded the fraudster tell her which child was contacting her.
Official figures show almost £50,000 has already been lost to “hello mum” and “hello dad” frauds which begin with a text or phone call from someone purporting to be a son or daughter.
Often the calls are made to random numbers obtained through the dark web, with the scammers effectively trying their luck in the hope that they will target a parent.
The criminals say that they are texting from a new mobile number as their phone was lost or damaged and will go on to ask for money to purchase a new device, or claim that they need money urgently to pay a bill.
Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime, said that some victims had lost £3,000 to the scam.
Figures from Action Fraud show that 25 instances of the scam have been reported between August and October, with victims losing a combined total £48,356.
WhatsApp Policy Manager Kathryn Harnett told Which?: “WhatsApp protects our users’ personal messages with end-to-end encryption, but we want to remind people that we all have a role to play in keeping our accounts safe by remaining vigilant to the threat of scammers.
“We advise all users never to share their six-digit PIN code with others, not even friends or family, and recommend that all users set up two-step verification for added security.
“And if you receive a suspicious message (even if you think you know who it’s from), calling or requesting a voice note is the fastest and simplest way to check someone is who they say they are.
“A friend in need is a friend worth calling.”
It comes after analysis revealed over one million Brits would have received a scam message over the Christmas period as the busiest period of the year sends scammers into overdrive.
UK Finance warned of looming “smishing” scams – a sophisticated phishing message designed to lure unsuspecting consumers into emptying their bank accounts.
Previous research from cybersecurity company Proofpoint revealed earlier this year that over half of “smishing” messages came from delivery companies – who are scrambling across the UK to deliver Boxing Day sales packages.
The text messages often say that the courier has been unable to make a delivery and ask the recipient to pay a fee or provide additional details in order to rearrange delivery.