Have you recently received an unexpected WhatsApp message reading: “Hello Mum, I’ve got a new phone, please save the number”?
It’s a perfectly innocent text, you might think. But these texts are actually being sent by scammers in an attempt to trick people into handing over money.
Sadly, this type of scam is proving very successful for criminals, with several major banks reporting an increase in this type of crime in the last few months. According to Barclays, each victim has lost £1,240 on average, often after making more than one payment to the fraudster.
Sarah Capper from Rhyl recently fell victim to this crime, chatting to who she thought was her daughter after receiving a WhatsApp message.
Speaking to BBC News, she said: “I got a message which started ‘Hi Mum’, saying their old phone had crashed and could I save this new number.
“We chatted for a while and the scammer was even talking with me about being stressed at work as if they were my daughter.”
The fraudster, posing as Sarah’s daughter, then said she didn’t have mobile banking set up on her phone and asked for help paying an invoice, with an assurance she’d be repaid straight away.
Sarah didn’t sense anything untowards and handed over more than £2,000, including £1,800 borrowed from her partner.
A day later, Sarah spoke to her daughter for real, but she had no idea what she was talking about, and then the realisation that she’d been defrauded out of thousands of pounds struck.
Thankfully, the payment bounced, possibly because the bank already viewed the fraudster’s account as suspicious, so Sarah was hugely fortunate. But she’s been left frightened and upset by the experience.
“I would have sworn blind that I was talking to my daughter, but it was a complete stranger,” she said.
Moira Spearman was also recently targeted in this way, receiving a similar text last month that she believed was from her daughter.
‘I’m frequently getting messages that she’s lost her phone or that it’s broken or she’s dropped it down the toilet,” she told the Daily Mail. “So this meant right from the outset, I wasn’t suspicious of the text.”
They continued exchanging messages, and Moira was led to believe that her daughter had two bills that needed paying straight away, and that it would take two days to get online banking set up on her new phone.
Moira handed over more than £700, but she became suspicious after another text arrived asking her to pay a second bill of more than £800.
After speaking to her son-in-law and being told there were no bills to be paid, Moira contacted her bank straight away to report the fraud. She was then refunded the full £719 that she’d handed over.
Moira, like Sarah, was fortunate that she got her money back, and both instances show how banks are aware of this type of scam and working to tackle it. But many are not so lucky and the nature of the fraud raises several questions.
For instance, have the fraudsters obtained information about their targets before getting in touch, or is it a simple confidence trick that they hope people will fall for?
The growing number of “Mum and Dad” scams serves as an important reminder to people not to take innocent looking messages at face value, particularly if they’re asking for large sums of money.
If you receive one of these messages and aren’t sure if it’s genuine, call your son or daughter on the contact number you have for them and you will soon find out if they’ve genuinely lost or broken their phone.
Think about the nature of the request you’ve received and don’t do anything until you’ve been able to verify the identity of the person asking.