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WhatsApp 'friend in need' scam messages

Published on Thursday 18 August 2022

Officers are warning WhatsApp users to be aware of a scam where criminals pretend to be a friend or family member with a new number requesting money after breaking their phone.


Often the scammers pretend to be a child of the recipient, with the first message often saying, ‘Hello Mum” or “Hello Dad”, as shown in our example video.

They might engage in small talk, using information unknowingly given by the victim to make the messages sound realistic, and will then ask for money in the form of a bank transfer or payment of bills.

Key signs that this is a scam may be someone sounding different, making spelling or grammar mistakes that are out of character and creating a sense of urgency for the recipient to carry out actions.

A video on Derbyshire Police's Facebook page shows what a conversation might look like, and some of the warning signs.

Detective Constable Tammy Barnes, Derbyshire Constabulary’s Fraud Protect Officer, said: “Being contacted urgently by a relative is always concerning, and the desire to help in an emergency is what the criminals are relying on.

“These criminals know that by calling the victim as ‘Mum’ or ‘Dad’ there is a reasonable chance that the recipient is a parent and will help the person, who they think is their child, without further question.

“If you ever get a message from a friend or family member that you think is suspicious, especially when they are asking for money or personal details, always call them and confirm their identity before doing anything else.”

Action Fraud have reported that over £1.5million has been lost by victims through this specific scam between 3 February and 21 June this year.

In some cases, victims have sent multiple amounts of money before realising the recipient isn’t a family member.

Action Fraud’s advice is to stop, challenge and protect when you receive a message that doesn’t seem right:

You can also forward suspicious text messages that you have not acted upon to 7726 for Action Fraud to review.




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