'Hi Mum' WhatsApp scam is being replaced with fraudsters now pretending to be parents who need help and money
Fraudsters attempting to extort money from mobile phone users by impersonating family members are embarking on a new scam in which they pretend to be older parents in distress.
Last year it was revealed that a WhatsApp scam in which criminals started the conversation with 'Hi Mum' or 'Hi Dad' had cost victims more than £1million in just five months.
More than 1,200 reports of the scam were logged by Action Fraud between February and June 2022 alone - costing victims £1.5million in total - with Northamptonshire Police announcing £25,000 had been taken from its residents in just two months alone.
The fraudsters impersonating a teenage child, message to say they are using a new or different mobile number because their phone was lost or damaged, and then go on to ask unsuspecting parents for money to purchase a new phone or because they urgently need to pay a bill.
But as the mum and dad scam has become better known and possibly less successful as more people were on their guard, scammers are adopting a different tactic and impersonating an older parent getting in touch with their adult child to ask for help.
Reports of the son-and-daughter scam messages involve a parent saying they've come out without any money or have lost their purse and could they have cash transferred to a friend's account in order to cover their shopping or the cost of petrol to get home.
Banking group Santander are among those to be aware of the latest tricks in which fraudsters are reversing the scenarios.
Issuing a warning through Money Mail, Chris Ainsley, head of fraud risk management at Santander, said "As the mum-and-dad scam has become better known and less effective, fraudsters are reversing the scenario.
"The scam itself is more or less the same in nature. They are impersonating someone you know, in the knowledge you are unlikely to give a person in the street money but if it's family you might. It's insidious."
Consumer group Which? says in the last year it has been inundated with reports of scams in which criminals impersonate a loved one. Messages, it says, which mostly start by talking about a lost or broken phone before there is a request for money to be sent to an unknown bank account the sender says belongs to a friend because they can't access theirs.
According to research by TSB three in five impersonation frauds now pretend to be a family member while fewer fraudsters now choose to impersonate bank staff, HMRC staff or retailers like Amazon.
Cases where family members are used as bait, says TSB, make up 40% of all losses from impersonation scams.
Detective Chief Inspector Craig Mullish, from the City of London Police - which is responsible for the Action Fraud department - said: "If you receive a message like this from a friend or family member, don’t send any money until you’ve had a chance to call them and confirm their identity.
"Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe."