Fraud experts warn of 'Hi mum' text scam that targets parents. Here's how to avoid being caught out.
Technology company Meta (the owner of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp) has come under fire recently - there's a new Facebook roll-out meaning parents are being advised to "think carefully" about letting their children use the social media platform, and now fresh warnings are being issued around a widespread WhatsApp scam.
Parents across the UK and further afield are being warned against fraudsters using a cruel 'Hi mum' text to rob them of their money. The scam has been around for several months now, but fraud experts have reiterated the warnings after new victims have come forward.
The highly effective scam plays on parents' fears by pretending to be their child in trouble, before asking them to transfer money. They often pretend to have lost or broken their phone in order to explain why they are messaging from a different number.
Many social media users have been sharing screenshots of the scam texts they have received, in order to raise awareness. One user on X (the platform formerly known as Twitter), shared a screenshot of a fraudulent text that read, "Hi mum I'm texting off a mate's phone I've dropped mine and their phones about to die can you message my new number on WhatsApp 0485860395 it is urgent x".
Another shared a text that read, "Hi mum, I've dropped my phone and now it's broken, this is my new number for now, so can you save it and text me through WhatsApp please".
The scam has spread all over the world, and the New South Wales Police Force in Australia recently shared on X how scammers use this tactic to convince parents to part with their money. In the screenshot below, the fraudster is pretending to be someone's child and claiming they have been locked out of their bank account.
Cybercrime Squad issue warning after more than $2 million stolen under ‘Hi Mum’ scam https://t.co/aEC8hgNexv pic.twitter.com/iUrqjWfHj2August 5, 2022
John Stirzaker, a consumer expert from NetVoucherCodes.co.uk, previously told the Mirror: "It's shocking how many Brits have been approached by scammers in the last year and it's likely this will rise even more in the next year.
"We've all heard the heartbreaking stories of people losing thousands of pounds to scammers, which is why we want to spread awareness of the ways they're currently targeting Brits.
"There are six types of scams that we've found to be spreading across the country currently, including the well-known 'Hi Mum' text which has crippled many parents' bank accounts."
The informal style of the messages makes it more difficult for parents to identify the text as a scam, believing it really is their child asking for help. But fraud experts say parents need to remain vigilant and should think twice before replying.
John added, "Now this text isn't just a straight-forward 'hand me the money my phone is broken', it's now developed where they'll message for days, putting kisses in messages and using social media to use personal information in conversations."
One victim recently told The Guardian that she felt "stupid and embarrassed" for falling for the scam after she lost £1,600. The parent, who remained anonymous, explained, "Last December, I got a message from my daughter, who lives in London. She told me she’d lost her phone and was using a different phone."
She went on to say, "I tried to call on the 'new number', but it wasn’t answered, and then I was messaged to say that we would talk later.
"I thought she was probably stressed, or in a busy place, or travelling about London. After I’d paid, I suddenly had a feeling of dread. I rang my daughter on her 'old' actual number, and she told me that it wasn’t her asking for money."
The victim was able to get a refund from her bank, but she told The Guardian, "Obviously I felt stupid and embarrassed. It made me feel like a stupid, vulnerable old woman." She added, "It knocked my confidence a fair bit."
If you receive a 'Hi mum' text and are unsure whether it was sent by your child or not, the best thing to do is contact your child directly or a person who might be with them to verify their identity. You could also set up a code word, a clever tip which can work in all sorts of situations, and recently stopped an 11-year-old from being abducted.
Cyber security expert Professor Steven Murdoch has advised via the MailOnline, "Take time to do anything and be very sceptical of anyone who says you have to act with urgency. If you are not sure, you should slow down and ask for help from someone you trust or call your bank."
Consumer expert John has also said, "We urge everyone who has been approached by a scammer to report the incident to Action Fraud and to ring up the bank straight away if any financial transactions were involved, so they're aware of the situation."
He added: "If the banks give advice that works out badly they will reimburse you."
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Ellie is GoodtoKnow’s Family News Editor and covers all the latest trends in the parenting world - from relationship advice and baby names to wellbeing and self-care ideas for busy mums. Ellie is also an NCTJ-qualified journalist and has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University. Previously, Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. When she’s not got her nose in a book, you’ll probably find Ellie jogging around her local park, indulging in an insta-worthy restaurant, or watching Netflix’s newest true crime documentary.
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