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‘Hi Mum’ scams are on the rise

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Sep 16, 2022

IT seems like each week there is a new scam to watch out for, whether it’s in your emails, social media, bank accounts or general door knocking.

Scamwatch is urging the public to be wary of the new ‘Hi Mum’ scam.

So far more than 1150 Australians have fallen victim to the ‘Hi Mum’ scam this year. It has resulted in $2.6 million in reported losses.

In the ‘Hi Mum’ or other ‘family impersonation’ scams, the victims are contacted, mostly using the app Whatsapp. The scammer poses as a family member or someone close to you. The scammer claims that they have lost or damaged their phone and are making contact with you from a different number. Once the relationship has developed with the scammer, who you think is a loved one, the scammer asks for personal information such as photos for their social media profile or the lending of money to pay a bill or replace their phone.

Some of the messages will say “It’s me” or occasionally the scammer appears to have the contact information and use the name of the person they are impersonating.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said, “We have seen an explosion in the number of ‘Hi Mum’ scams in the past couple of months, and so we are warning Australians to be very wary of messages from unknown numbers claiming to be from their children, parents, relatives, or friends. These scammers will stop at nothing to get your personal details or money and this scam is designed to pull your heartstrings. It’s important to stop and think if you get a message, especially on WhatsApp, because chances are it’s not your family member or friend, it’s a scammer.”

The ACCC is urging people who receive suspicious messages from a number they don’t recognise, to independently verify the contact. A way to do this is if you are contacted by someone claiming to be your son, daughter, relative or friend, try to call them on their original number. If they answer this, you know it’s a scam. If you can’t contact them on their original number, try a secondary contact method for this person to verify who you’re speaking to. If there is still no luck, try asking a personal question a scammer couldn’t know the answer to.

Ms Rickard said, “Above all, never send money without being absolutely sure who you are sending it to.”

Sadly, over two thirds of family impersonation scams have been reported by woman over the age of 55 which has accounted to a $1.4 million loss.

“Unfortunately, these unscrupulous scammers are targeting women and older Australians, with 82 per cent of family impersonation scams reported by people over the age of 55, accounting for 95 per cent of all reported losses,” Ms Rickard said.

“If you have reason to believe you have been scammed, contact your bank as soon as possible as they may be able to find where the money went, block scam accounts and help others to avoid sending money to scammers.”

People who detect a scam, regardless of whether they have lost money, can report scams, and learn more about how to get help on the Scamwatch website at scamwatch.gov.au

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