A new scam is tricking families, and especially parents, out of money.
The Hi Mum scam comes as a message from a family member or friend claiming they have lost or damaged their phone and they need help.
More than 1,150 Australians have been caught up in the Hi Mum scam in the first seven months of this year with losses of $2.6 million.
The scam commonly uses WhatsApp and the scammer poses as a family member.
The scammer will claim they have lost or damaged their phone and are making contact from a new number.
Once they have developed a rapport with their target, the scammer will ask for personal information such as photos for their social media profile or money to help urgently pay a bill, contractor or replace the phone.
These requests continue the ruse of a lost or broken phone with the justification that the funds are needed because they can’t access their online banking.
Some messages will simply say “it’s me,” while in other cases the scammers appear to have contact information and use the name of the person they are impersonating.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission urges people who receive suspicious messages from a number they don’t recognise to verify the contact.
“If you’re contacted by someone claiming to be your son, daughter, relative or friend, start by calling them on the number already stored in your phone to confirm if it’s no longer in use. If they pick up – you know it’s a scam,” the ACCC advised.
“If you’re unable to make contact, you should try a secondary contact method to verify who you’re speaking to.
“If you still can’t contact your family member or friend, consider asking a personal question a scammer couldn’t know the answer to, so you know the person you are speaking to is who they say they are.”
“Above all, never send money without being absolutely sure who you are sending it to.”
Two-thirds of family impersonation scams have been reported by women 55 years and older.
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, whether they have lost money or not, can report scams at Scamwatch.