POLICE are urging parents to be more careful when receiving WhatsApp messages from unknown numbers.
Coppers said Thursday of a steady rise in reports linked to the “Mum and Dad WhatsApp Scam”.
The devious scheme employed by cybercrooks rinses victims’ bank accounts by pretending to be friends or family members.
They ask for a bank transfer for something urgent, such as an unpaid bill, and then scarper once the money has been sent.
Thousands of scams have been reported in recent months, and police are encouraging Brits to be on the alert.
Ken Police tweeted Wednesday: “Across the country, there has been an increase in the ‘mum & dad’ scam.
“Never assume or believe that a message asking for money is genuine and confirm by ringing the person on a number that you know.”
You should make sure your parents are aware of the scheme. If they are tricked they could lose thousands.
What should parents know about the WhatsApp scam
The warning echoes comments made by a fraud expert this week, who discussed how to avoid being caught out by the scam.
Chris Ainsley, head of fraud risk management at Santander UK, said these scams have appeared on WhatsApp as well as other messaging forms, such as texts to mobile phones.
“We saw a significant spate in fake WhatsApp messages pretending to be from people’s children,” he said.
“That’s still ongoing. It’s picked up again in the last month where we’re not just seeing it through WhatsApp but on ‘traditional’ SMS or text messages.
“Someone just sends you a text message saying: ‘Hi dad,’ or ‘Hi mum,’ but then they just try to engineer the person into sending them a couple of thousand pounds in some cases.”
Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cyber-crime, said scams involving criminals on WhatsApp pretending to be friends or family members were reported to it 1,235 times between February 3 and June 21.
And that’s just the ones they have been told about – many people don’t. These scams cost users a whopping £1.5 million.
Fraudsters are also trying more complex schemes.
For example, there have been cases where scammers try to manipulate people into initially transferring money to accounts belonging to other friends and family members, before the money is then moved on to the fraudster.
When the money goes through multiple accounts like this, it could make it harder for banks to trace the cash.
Red flags to look out for in the WhatsApp scam
The scammer first contacts someone with a “Hi mum” or “Hi dad” message which appears to be from their child.
They then try to persuade the recipient that their account has been compromised and they need to transfer cash to a friend or family member to keep their money “safe”.
The victim will be provided with details of an account which will be controlled by the fraudster or a money mule, and told to ask their friend or family member to transfer the money on to the other account.
Once the money has been transferred to the new account, the fraudster can cut off all contact and the victim will be unable to access their funds.
“Certainly it’s an indicator of how agile criminals can be,” said Chris.
Parents should watch out this autumn
As students head off to university this autumn, parents could be more at risk of receiving fake requests for money from fraudsters pretending to be their children.
“It might be more common for someone to fall for it at that time of year,” said Chris.
“Certainly I think the timeframe we saw it really starting last year was around October, November.”
But he added some parents of adults who are older than university age have also been targeted.
People who get strange messages out of the blue should remember the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign, which urges people to pause and take time to think before handing over any personal information or money.
There are lots of other impersonation scams
There are lots of scams out there, so you should always be wary of anybody who contacts you out of the blue.
One type of scam to avoid is known as an impersonation scam.
This is where fraudsters pretend they are from a well-known company or service, such as banks, delivery companies or Amazon.
People might even pretend that they are the police.
An estimated £2billion was lost to fraud over the past year and this type of scam accounts for a quarter of all cases.
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