Cybercrime Squad detectives have issued a warning to Australian mobile phone users and especially parents to remain vigilant after a spike in victims of the scam dubbed 'Hi Mum'.
What to look out for
It starts out like any other normal message a daughter or son might send to their mum, but the simple text exchange has cost Australians more than $2 million already.
The scam involves the offender sending a text message from an unknown mobile phone number, to a person on a messaging application claiming to be their son or daughter. Examples of messaging applications include Whatsapp, Viber, Instagram, Facebook Messenger or simply via text message.
The message states they've lost their phone, telling the victim they're messaging from their new number and to delete the old number.
Example scam message: "Hey Mum it's me. I got a new phone number, you can delete the old one. I got a new phone. I'm still transferring everything".
Once the victim engages in conversation, the offender asks to borrow money or have a payment made on their behalf. This generally includes an excuse as to why they need it - for example, unavailability of online banking on the new device - and an offer to pay it back.
Example of scammer's next message: "The banking app has put a 48-hour security on the app due to fraud. All nice but I have to pay two payments".
The message will usually state it's a matter of urgency before providing details for the payment.
Australians are encouraged to look out for suspicious behaviours demonstrated by these scammers, including failure to personalise any communication and excuses as to why they can’t speak on the phone.
Who is being targeted
Victims are predominantly aged 55 years and older, with people in NSW and Victoria accounting for more than 50 per cent of 'Hi Mum' scam victims, followed by Western Australia and Queensland.
While the scam dates back to October 2021, there has been a significant increase in reports since May 2022.
Many parents are falling victim because they're simply nice people and like any other parent, are concerned for their child's welfare.
How to protect yourself
If you receive a suspicious message on your mobile, particularly through social media or encrypted messaging, reach out to your relative by an alternative method of communication or call to confirm it is in fact them.
Remember to never share any personal information with anyone, such as card details or SMS One Time Passwords.
What to do if you've been scammed
If you have lost money to a scam, please notify your financial institution as soon as possible.
Anyone with information in relation to cybercrimes and scams is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report information via NSW Police social media pages.