/ Scams

Warning: WhatsApp ‘mum and dad’ scam continues

Scammers using WhatsApp are posing as family members in order to manipulate victims into transferring money. Here’s how it works.

02/03/22: ‘Mum and dad scam’ continues

Now dubbed the ‘mum and dad scam’, our Which? Money helpline team has reported an increase in the number of people getting in touch who have been affected by this type of fraud.

As a result, we’re repeating our call to make your friends and family aware – particularly, of course, your mum and dad.

Keep scrolling to see exactly how the scam works, what it looks like, and what to do if you’ve unfortunately become a victim.

23/12/21: Impersonation scams increase

We’re seeing more and more reports of this scam from multiple sources, and even anecdotally from friends, family and Which? staff.

Here are examples of how these messages appear and how the fraudster attempts to move the conversation on once the intended victim has responded.

02/12/21: Posing as family members

Back in May we covered the ‘WhatsApp verification message trick’. Since then, someone targeted by that very scam got in touch when a fraudster pretending to be her sister took over her WhatsApp account.

They started a believable conversation with her, but then asked to borrow cash to pay for ‘car repairs’. Her sister was actually away at university at the time, so the request didn’t seem unusual – she transferred £350.

Later she received another message requesting a further £500 as the bill had been ‘more than expected’. Becoming suspicious, she called her sister who of course knew nothing about it, but was aware that her WhatsApp had been hacked.

‘This is my new number’ impersonation cons

In this case, her sister had indeed been caught out by the verification scam, allowing fraudsters to access her account. You can read more about the methods involved in that particular scam here.

However, we’ve also heard reports of entirely random phone numbers contacting people on WhatsApp, claiming to be a son, daughter or other family member or friend who suddenly has a ‘new number’.

While the techniques involved in contacting you are slightly different, the outcome will be the same: fraudsters are after your money and/or personal data. They will attempt to gain your trust in this way, before requesting money to solve a problem, such as the ‘car repair’ job above. This has become known as the ‘friend in need‘ scam.

Impersonation of friends and family is also common on other messaging apps, and email. We’ve seen cases where fraudsters have gained access to chat history and have continued conversations in progress, cunningly manipulating the course of the conversation into a request for money.

How to handle impersonation scams

If you get a request for money in a message, it’s always worth giving the contact a quick call on the original number you have saved for them to check the details before you go ahead, even if it’s a close relative. Don’t give security codes for any accounts to anyone.

There’s no way someone else’s code could be sent to you by accident. In the case we were contacted about, the money was sent using a bank transfer – the victim isn’t yet sure if she’ll be reimbursed. However, her bank is signed up to the code that pledges to refund customers that fall victim to bank transfer fraud like this.

Guide: how to spot a scam

Guide: how to get your money back after a scam

If she is able to show evidence that she was tricked into the transaction – possibly screenshots from the chat and any correspondence with WhatsApp – she should get her money back.

We let WhatsApp know these scams were continuing to take place on its platform. Its Policy Manager, Kathryn Harnett 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.”

Have you been contacted out of the blue on WhatsApp in this way? Was it a random new number or had some accessed your family member or friend’s account? Let us know in the comments.

Christine Shorten says:
4 March 2022

I had one, when I asked who it was it said “your eldest child” I said ” I hope you get your broken phone sorted” Easy- no kids therefore knew it was garbage.

Don Cockram says:
4 March 2022

If you had children , ?what would you have done??

Emily says:
4 March 2022

I was contacted last night by whatsapp massage the sender claimed to be one of my sons and said that they had dropped their phone in the toilet and that it was no longer working.
they also said that the sim wasn’t working. The massage went on asked me to save the number on my phone which i did.
I found the massages very believable as this is something that has happen to my sister.
The fact that made me checked this out was that they had said the sim card wasn’t working, this seemed odd .
This indeed proved to be a scam .
The number used was 075654544199.

Caroline says:
5 March 2022

I had this happen to me several weeks ago, they said they were my first born which funnily enough is a term I sometimes use.
They asked for a £1000 and sent a link with an Indian/Pakistani name on it.
We actually had a joke because they said they’d changed their number because they were getting strange phone calls & I said someone must’ve written it on a toilet wall. They laughed at that.
I screenshot some messages just as they began to delete them and notified WhatsApp who removed them all.

Dennis Noble says:
5 March 2022

Easy. When someone says “Eldest Child”, respond with a name that is bogus and they will accept that. BTBH you would expect your eldest child to say their name!!!

I just received one of these but was suspicious and called both my daughters as I tried to call the “new” number and got a text back saying it was “water damaged so not working “for” 100%” so not likely someone who has English as their first language. Pretty convincing all the same as they were very keen to get my attention and make sure I wasn’t busy. Asked for £2350 then I blocked the number.

Carolyn Leventon says:
17 March 2022

How do we report this scam please. It is almost identical to a scam perpetrated on my husband, Patrick. He tried to block the number when he realised that this was a con but the scammer removed all trace of their part in the scam.
Carolyn Leventon
01962 809571

17 March 2022

I had similar messages yesterday, for the second time! It starred with ” Hi mum it’s me”. This is my new number etc. I replied “Which of my darling is this?” The reply was the oldest and cutest! I know for a fact that my son, my eldest, would never describe himself in this way!! I played along for a while, being asked to send £1400 , which I said I couldn’t afford! I think I annoyed the scammer as they haven’t replied to my last message!
Seriously though these people have got to be stopped, as people are falling for it.

The number the messages came from was : 07537175255

John Scadden says:
18 March 2022

I had a WhatsApp message saying this is my new number. Just deleted it out of hand! Didn’t waste my time answering or phoning my kids! Got a phone call the other day saying it was Amazon! Dismissed that one as well! Had emails demanding money or they’ll spread videos of me doing naughty things on a porn site! Didn’t fall for that one either!

Lyndsey Beaumont says:
31 March 2022

I was lucky, my supposed son called me mum. He never calls me that, it’s always the northern way mam. I knew straight away it wasn’t him. I got my own back. I dialled the number they’d given me continuously for over an hour and they kept hanging up. They switched the phone on again and I did it for hours. They sent me a text to say to leave them alone, I just texted back…….NEVER! and dialled the number for days . Those particular fraudsters won’t bother me again lmao

Judy Whitehead says:
8 May 2022

Got a What’s App saying ‘ Mum my phone has broken and to save this number’ as it’s their new phone but no mention of the name of the child. I small a rat and phoned each of my children first who said their phones were ok so blocked the number. Terrible though that they could easily catch people out this way.

Colin says:
10 May 2022

Yes just had this. Very believable as child was having a bad day.
I did wonder how he had a new number but did not realize it was a scam.
I did however ask for his driving instructor s first name then heard nothing more. Hate these scammers.

Heather says:
17 May 2022

I’ve just had one of these. Had a suspicion it was a scam because both my children go to bed early during the week and this was 11 30 at night. Asked for £1350. I rang the number but no answer. Can’t write what I said to them because it’s rather rude!!! All of a sudden the convo they wrote was deleted.


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