/ 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.

Sarah Robinson says:
26 January 2022

Has anyone had a case where the scammer gives actually an old address or some personal detail? My mum had this tonight and they referenced a place i lived with my mum almost a decade ago!

This has happened to me frequently since I moved home in 2016, Sarah. I tend to end the call before I know whether the callers are going to attempt a scam or just wanting to sell something. The calls often relate to shareholdings.

Sadly one caller recited my current address.

My Dad has received 2 WhatsApp messages in the last month claiming that my sister and then I had lost our phones and had new mobile numbers and to save into contacts immediately. Worrying my dad saved as told, although I deleted and blocked as soon as I found out. He had been convinced as the phone number appeared in WhatsApp with my sister’s and my name at the top!! Alarming

It happens through email as well. Someone messaged me from my sister’s email (must have been compromised), asking for me to get a gift card for her friend since she was out of town and the birthday was today.

My mom received a message this evening from one of these scum bags trying to impersonate me (son) asking for money. I live in South Africa and my mom lives in Scotland. This is the number they are using +44 7398312192

Pam jones says:
8 February 2022

This happened to me but I didn’t hand over any money as got suspicious, I reported to police and action fraud, the number they used was 44 7418349423. I wrote down all bank details and screen shot all messages

Lindsey says:
16 February 2022

Just had one of these, luckily I knew it was a scam straight off. Managed to get the bank account details off them. Where should I report this?

Sharon says:
16 February 2022

This happened to me a couple of weeks ago – virtually the same wording, I was shocked as it professed to being from my son (who hasn’t spoken to me for 17 years) BUT I was aware that he’d had problems with his phone! He asked for £2,400 as he needed to pay for a new phone & another bill that day. I asked a few questions which were responded to but I said I didn’t have that kind of money. He said he’d ring me later! I rang the new number he’d given me but no answer! Then mysteriously the messages were deleted! Thankfully I didn’t fall for it but it’s caused a lot of hurt feelings.

Caroline Clarke says:
17 February 2022

I received a “Hi mum” scam on Friday evening late saying they’d lost their phone – and my daughter had just gone on a week’s holiday. The next morning the text asked me to send my credit card details so she could pay a bill (only £51.72). Caller’s number was +447418367855.
I’ve reported it to the Offcom text number 7726.

This happened to my mum 3 days ago. She lost £2,000, and they still tried to ask for another £500, which is when she got really suspicious. Getting taken advantage of like this as a pensioner has been very upsetting for all of us. I’m just hoping she gets the money back from the bank.

Steve Swinton says:
3 March 2022

I was approached on WhatsApp in exactly this way. I asked which of my 3 daughters it was by offering 3 names (none of which were correct of course). Strangly enough! The conversation dried up at that point. 😂🤣

Bev Webb says:
3 March 2022

I was scammed in exactly this WhatsApp way and thought I was dealing with and for my daughter. NATWEST REFUSED TO REFUND ME.

Keith says:
3 March 2022

Why should they,down to you

Mo says:
3 March 2022

Have you not read the article?

Jean Clarkson says:
3 March 2022

I’ve recived one of these messages, but unfortunately for the person who had got a new phone number they called me Dad, so I new it was a scam. I reported it to WhatsApp and blocked the number

Barbara Skelton says:
3 March 2022

I was scanned to the tune £1250 someone pretended to be my son, frozen bank account and needing to pay an invoice unfortunately it all sounded feasible, payable to a johanny Fiaz, for a laptop, my son would do this do didn’t think anything was wrong

Rob Hill says:
3 March 2022

I had a WhatsApp message from my “Aunt” in Canada. Was fooled initially. Wanted me to buy a gift card to help a friend in trouble who we assumed was in the UK. Their ruse fell apart when asking for $350 – more than you’d ever put on a gift card, and in Canadian dollars which I obviously can’t do. Turned out half the family had been hit – but all realised in time

Guy James says:
3 March 2022

I offered the scammer twice the money they were asking for “Just in case anything unexpected came up” and was treated to 6 laughing emojis and they ended the conversation!

Mary oulton says:
3 March 2022

I had a whatsapp saying phone had been stolen by a tramp and to save the new number.
My daughter was with me so it wasn’t her( Hi Mum) and as it was a long text message I contacted my son because he usually only sends only very short ones! He told me to block the message which I have done.

Boo says:
3 March 2022

I received one of these messages a while ago. It was from a mobile number, not from any of my stored contacts. It read :
“Hi mum, I’ve dropped my phone, & the screen isn’t working, this is my new number, save it.” Are you busy right now?” Well my eldest practices non binary, & we never use the words daughter/son , or mum. I knew immediately something was off, & I did, in my confusion, reply back. ” who is this”? To which was replied “your daughter. I need some help” . It was confirmed by the word daughter.
I then checked in with my eldest, whose phone was working perfectly fine.

LesLey bird says:
4 March 2022

I received one of these saying ‘hey mum I dropped my phone in water and have got myself
Into a situation’ please contact me on this temporary number‘. I replied ‘put your phone in a bag of rice’
I didn’t get any further messages, but I called both of my children the next day, because I read the message late. We all realised that it was a scam and it was very unpleasant. It would be easy to get caught by it, but I would never send funds to a different bank or give any bank details in a message. I was concerned that my phone had been hacked, so wouldn’t use my banking app for several weeks. All my banking was done using a different device.

Ian Fraser says:
4 March 2022

I was contacted, knew straight away it was a scam but played along. They were that stupid they didn’t realise I was making fun of their answers! What was really frustrating tho was I got full details of the UK acct they wanted money paid into, reported these to Police Scotland only to be told no further action would be taken because I’d suffered no financial loss! What is the point of the police?

Carol says:
4 March 2022

I’ve had that one twice but I have 5 sons so I asked witch one he said you’re son? So that was the end of that I new it was a scam