Fraud police have warned about a new text scam whereby conmen pose as the children of victims to dupe them out of thousands of pounds.
Officers said almost £50,000 has already been lost to the emerging “hello mum” and “hello dad” frauds.
The scam sees people receive a WhatsApp message from a random number purporting to be a son or daughter who has lost their phone.
Once victims save the new numbers as their son or daughter, scammers then ask for them to send them money to cover imminent payment coming out of their accounts.
Experts warned the new “brazen” scam marks a shift in the kinds of online frauds that have exploded during the pandemic, where scammers often pose as banks or government organisations to trick people into handing over their financial details.
Action Fraud, the UK’s fraud policing unit, said that some victims had lost as much as £3,000 to the scam and that fraudsters also asked for payments so the fake relative could buy a new phone.
Temporary Detective Inspector Craig Mullish, from the City of London Police, said:
“If you’re contacted out of the blue from a number you don’t recognise but the person is claiming to be someone you know and is requesting financial assistance – stop and think as it could protect you and your money.
“These messages may appear genuine but your money could end up in the pockets of a criminal, so it’s okay to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you. Try and reach out to the person directly by another form of communication to confirm that their request for help is genuine as it could be a scam.”