Australians have lost over $7m to ‘hi mum’ text message scam in 2022, report says

Victims of the scam has increased tenfold in the past three months, Australian regulator says

Vishwam Sankaran
Monday 12 December 2022 11:35 GMT
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Australians have lost more than $7m in 2022 to a text message scam in which fraudsters posed as family and convinced people to send them money.

Known as “Hi Mum” or “family impersonation” scams, fraudsters contacted victims – often via WhatsApp – posing as a family member or friend who had lost or damaged their phone and was contacting them from a different number.

The number of victims of the scam increased tenfold in the past three months, according to the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC).

In 2022 alone, the ACCC says $7.2m has been stolen from at least 11,100 victims, ABC news reported.

The Australian competition regulator noted that the number of victims has surged tenfold since August when over 1,150 were scammed, with total reported losses of $2.6m.

“We’re urging Australians to be wary of phone messages from a family member or friend claiming they need help, following a significant rise in ‘Hi Mum’ scams. More than 1,150 people fell victim to the scam, with total reported losses of $2.6m,” the ACCC said in August.

The regulator said most of the family impersonation scams were reported by women over 55 years of age.

It urged people receiving such suspicious messages to independently verify the contact.

“If you’re contacted by someone claiming to be your son, daughter, relative, or friend, start by calling them on the number already stored in your phone to confirm if it’s no longer in use. If they pick up – you know it’s a scam,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard had said in August.

If a person receiving such a text is unable to verify the contact, the ACCC recommends they try a secondary contact method to verify who they are speaking to.

“If you still can’t contact your family member or friend, consider asking a personal question a scammer couldn’t know the answer to, so you know the person you are speaking to is who they say they are,” Ms Rickard said, urging Australians to never send money without being sure who they are sending it to.

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