Warning as new WhatsApp scam is on the rise, here's what you need to know

Fraudsters are using a cruel new tactic to try and scam victims on WhatsApp by pretending to be a child in need or an elderly parent.

Warning as new WhatsApp scam is on the rise, here's what you need to know
© SOPA Images - Getty Images
Warning as new WhatsApp scam is on the rise, here's what you need to know

Cyber-criminals have found a new variation on the WhatsApp scam where users were conned out of their money by pretending to be a victim’s child and opening messages with ‘Hi Mum’. This ongoing fraud played on the vulnerability of worried parents and is thought to have cost victims millions of pounds last year.

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The latest scam involves the scammer impersonating a vulnerable elderly parent in need of their child’s help in an insidious reversal of the scenario. Consumer group Which? has said it has been inundated with reports of scams in which criminals impersonated loved ones in the last year.

‘Hi Mum’ WhatsApp scam

The original scam had been very profitable for scammers with over 1,200 reports of the scam being logged by Action Fraud between February and June last year - costing victims £1.5million in total.

However, as the fraud became well known, criminals decided to change the storyline a bit to try and target a different demographic. Consequently, several fraud departments in banks have been warning their customers about transferring money to accounts they don’t know.

Chris Ainsley, head of fraud risk management at Santander, warned as per Fenland Citizen:

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.

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Number-spoofing malware

In addition to this scam, another cyber-fraud tactic is using ‘number-spoofing’. This entails hackers using technology to disguise the display name on your phone instead of it showing an unknown number. This could be done by surreptitiously installing malware on a victim’s phone which then shows the incoming call to be from someone on their contact list.

In 2022, trade association UK Finance discovered over 5000 mobile devices infected with malware, which led to £15.7million being lost to cybercrime.

In an effort to reduce the fraud, NatWest has advised customers this week that they are eligible for free cybersecurity software, MalwareBytes. This software protects users’ devices against malware that tries to gain unauthorised access to data like personal details or banking information.

Head of fraud protection at Natwest, Stuart Skinner advised downloading the software to improve protection against scammers, as per The Sun:

We are committed to helping our customers stay safe and secure and are continuously investing in new fraud prevention tools and the latest security technology.
I urge you to download MalwareBytes today, to help ensure you are doing everything possible to protect yourself against this crime.

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Sources used:

- Fenland Citizen ''Hi Mum' WhatsApp scam is being replaced with fraudsters now pretending to be parents who need help and money'

- The Sun 'MUM'S THE WORD Cruel new twist on well-known ‘hi mum’ WhatsApp scam revealed'

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