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Rising number of people falling victim to ‘Dear Mum’ scam on Whatsapp

In some cases, victims have lost up to £3,000

Emily Atkinson
Thursday 20 January 2022 15:29 GMT
(AFP via Getty Images)

A rising number of people are falling victim to a scam on Whatsapp where fraudsters convince people to send them money by posing as friends and family in financial difficulty.

The ‘Dear Mum’ scam involves fraudsters posing as people’s children by pretending they have lost or damaged their phone and are having to contact their parents from a different number.

The scammers then ask their parents to lend them money for a new phone or to cover their bills.

According to Barclays, reports of the scam quadrupled over the last three months of last year, compared with the previous three.

The bank told The Times that the average loss was £1,242, which could be the sum of a number of transactions. Action Fraud, a fraud reporting service, said that, in some circumstances, victims had lost more than £3,000.

A 77 per cent rise in the scam between October and December was also reported by Santander. In 65 per cent of cases, the scammers disguised themselves as the victim’s son, and in 33 per cent, as their daughter. On occasion, the scammers would pose as parents or friends.

Ross Martin, from Barclays, told The Times: “If you get a message from friends or a family member asking for money, give them a call on a number you trust and speak to them to confirm it really is them before you make a payment.”

People potentially targeted by the scam should ask the alleged family member a personal question, experts said.

Most recent data from UK Finance shows that losses to scams where victims were coerced into sending their money reached a record £355.3 million in the first six months of 2021. This represents an increase of 71 per cent on 2020.

Around £150.7 million has been returned to the victims.

Kathryn Harnett, Policy Manager at WhatsApp, said: “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.”

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